Is hockey right for my child?
Hockey is considered one of the fastest growing organized sport in the U.S. with more than 500,000 youth hockey participants nationwide. Additionally, opportunities for girls are increasing from year to year. Many schools are beginning to offer hockey as a regular team sport or club sport. And for schools that don’t offer the sport, local ice rinks are happy to fill the gap.
When considering whether your child would be a good fit for hockey, remember that there are two types of teams:
In-house – this type of program is designed for home ice rink fundamentals. Athletes signed up for this group learn about the basics of puck handling, rules of the game, skating techniques and basic game plays.
Travel – more advanced players are part of this group and tend to travel more frequently.
Hockey is a very fast-paced sport, which many consider dangerous, but with the right equipment and training it can be played and enjoyed safely. It’s great for developing a child’s eye-hand coordination and balance, and is a worthwhile cardiovascular workout as well.
Two things are fundamental for success on the ice.
1. Student hockey players must know how to skate forward and backward.
2. They need to use the necessary equipment to help prevent injury.
Local ice rinks offer hockey skating lessons to ensure the proper fundamentals are learned and that kids feel comfortable on the ice in hockey skates. Check with your local skating rink since it’s the standard to offer classes for numerous age groups.
Hockey requires plenty of protective gear, and it needs to be properly fitted to protect student athletes. The list of equipment includes:
- Mouth guard (either custom-made or “boil and bite” off the shelf)
- Face shield
- Shoulder pads
- Elbow pads
- Pants (girdle and shell)
- Cup/supporter (boys only)
- Shin guards
If the student plans on being a goalie, keep in mind that additional equipment is needed to keep your child safe. Additional items include:
- Goalie face shield
- Leg pads
- Catch glove
- Chest and arm protector
- Goalie helmet with face mask
- Goalie skates
- Goalie stick
The risks of the game
Did you know that each year more then 63,000 hockey-related injuries are treated in the U.S., whether at your doctor’s office, orthopedic surgical center, or the ER? Though the risk of injury cannot be completely removed, most injuries tend to be fairly mild.
Once a student has developed skills on the ice and is protected by the proper equipment, it is important to anticipate what types of injuries they could experience so you can be aware of how to best prevent them. Collisions are a normal experience on the ice. Athletes consistently knock into each other. And being hit by pucks, sticks, and running into boards during game time is considered part of earning your stripes. Additionally, non-contact injuries are possible and might include muscle strains from over use or acute trauma.
Hockey players may experience some bruising, simple muscle pulls, ligament tears and minor cuts. More serious injuries do occur, but are generally more rare. Those could include: broken teeth, concussions, broken bones, dislocations, spine and spinal cord injuries. In the event of an injury, learn more about returning to the game from our two-part post.
Results of research reveal that enforcement of rules that are already in place and better protection in the form of padding and equipment improvements are simple steps to keep players safe. The studies have also led to improved safety rules. For example, some of this information has led to the elimination of such practices as checking from behind and using a stick to the helmet as a weapon. Additionally, educating coaches and trainers to identify injuries and keep student athletes safer should be a top priority.
Insights and statistics are courtesy of AAOS organization (American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons).