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The Most Common Hockey Injuries and How to Prevent Them

hockey and hit with woman on field for training fitness and goals exercise.

It’s widely accepted in the sports world that almost every sporting activity comes with its safety risks and that sports injuries are, unfortunately, inevitable. Field hockey and ice hockey are no exceptions. As sports first aid and physiotherapy specialists, Sterosport is passionate about empowering coaches, club managers, athletes and physios to keep their sports teams and individual players safe from accident or injury wherever possible.

ice hockey sport players in action

In this article, we’ll discuss the most common hockey injuries that happen on the hockey field and the ice and take you through some of the best ways to prevent injury. While knowing how to treat hockey injuries in an emergency is important, prevention is always the best solution.

The Most Common Field Hockey Injuries

As part of its field hockey injury prevention efforts, the International Hockey Federation (FIH) assessed available data on reported injuries in field hockey in a report titled ‘Injury Research in Hockey’. The findings of this report revealed certain trends across the sport that correlate with widely adopted understandings of the most common injuries in field hockey. 
The report found that hockey head injuries and hockey face injuries are the most common during play. Damage to the hands and fingers, including hockey wrist injury incidences, were also found to be common field hockey injuries, and injuries to the lower leg are also reported frequently. This includes field hockey knee injuries and hockey foot injuries such as ankle sprains and ligament strains.

hockey player girl in defence against attack in indoor hockey game

The FIH report found that the most common causes of field hockey injuries were impact incidences with a ball or hockey stick. The data also showed that ‘male players tend to have more injuries due to collisions compared to female players’. 

In summary, the report found that the vast majority of field hockey injuries are:

  • Contusions (bruises)
  • Sprains 
  • Lacerations (cuts)
  • Concussion (potentially serious brain injury caused by impact to the skull)

Check out England Hockey’s Concussion Policy and Concussion Guidance for essential information about managing these serious field hockey head injuries. 

The Most Common Ice Hockey Injuries

An extensive seven-year study into ‘Injuries in men’s international ice hockey’ that reviewed data from the IIHF Adult World Championship Tournaments and Olympic Winter Games found that, not dissimilarly from field hockey, the most common ice hockey injuries were:

  • Lacerations (cuts)
  • Sprains
  • Contusions (bruises)
  • Fractures

In addition to the above ice hockey injury reports, concussion is a common injury suffered by ice hockey players. Due to the high-contact nature of ice hockey, head injuries, including concussions, can often go unnoticed and pose a threat to player safety several days after the incidence of injury. While ice hockey players are required to wear protective headgear, including a regulation ice hockey helmet and face guard, impact suffered to the head poses the risk of concussion to all players. 

Hockey player

While there is no easy solution as a means of hockey injury prevention for concussion that will do more than a well-designed, industry-approved protective helmet, referees, officials, and coaches can teach, train and enforce responsible play and encourage all players on the ice to minimise head-to-head contact to prevent the incidence of severe concussion which is considered to be a serious ice hockey brain injury.

Keen to learn more about hockey injury statistics and learn about the data? Check our Hockey and Ice Hockey Statistics article for more information about ice hockey and field hockey injuries.

How to Prevent Hockey Injuries on the Hockey Field and on the Ice Rink

Regarding safety, putting measures in place to prevent common hockey injuries is a vital part of managing both field hockey and ice hockey. The relevant governing bodies offer support and guidance to reduce the likelihood of a severe hockey injury.

England Hockey’s Guidance for Avoiding the Most Common Field Hockey Injuries

The UK’s governing body for field hockey, England Hockey, offers the following advice: 

When planning for safe, fun and engaging hockey you need to consider the following best practice:

  • Coaching workforce
  • Facilities
  • Risk Assessments
  • Running safe warm-ups
  • Injury reporting and monitoring
  • Guidance for parents/guardians

The England Hockey Dos and Don’ts Guide covers best practices for coaches and hockey teams to follow as an essential part of hockey injury prevention. Read on to find out the essentials.

Do:

  • Include a warm-up at the start of any session.

This includes a warm-up exercise before a training or practice session and formal competitive games. 

Warm-ups are an essential way to prepare player’s bodies for physical activity and help to prevent a range of overuse use injuries, including field hockey knee injuries, hockey foot injuries and even a serious hockey ankle injury.

Plan the warm-up to be as fun and engaging as possible to encourage all players to participate. With that in mind, consider your group’s age, ability and specific needs when planning the warm-up. Factor in the surface and equipment used, and ensure it’s appropriate for the following activity. 

Before beginning any warm-up exercises, ensure that you have enough people on hand to meet the recommended minimum supervision ratios for the size of your warm-up group.

Don’t forget to take a register of all people in attendance of the warm-up, including those supervising. 

hockey first aid kit
  • Ensure a first aid kit is accessible at all times and make sure accident report forms are available should they be required.

Hockey clubs and sports premises are required by UK law to ensure a hockey first aid kit and qualified first aider are available at all times when a sporting activity is played. We cover the importance of having a well-stocked first aid kit for hockey and break down the essential contents on our blog. 
Ensure that medical details are accessible and that parents can be contacted if required. On top of that, sports clubs and facilities must have an accessible accident report book on-site to record any accidents and injuries on the premises. This is not only to comply with British HSE laws but is necessary for coaches and club staff to monitor accidents and injuries. Responsible staff should regularly assess whether any adjustments need to be made to improve the health and safety standards of the facility.

Accident Report Book

Don’t:

  • Get the hockey balls out until the start of the session, whether these are provided by the club or belong to individuals.
  • Allow players to knock around or warm up on the side of the pitch before the session starts or when other activity (game or training session) is happening.
  • Allow players to engage in unsupervised activity which compromises safety.
  • Allow players to have stick and ball time unsupervised.
  • Leave the group unsupervised whilst the warm-up is taking place.
  • Allow players to stand near or behind the goal whilst other players are shooting or lose control of/ swing their stick when close to other players.      

All the ‘don’t’ recommendations above are provided to ensure optimal player safety for hockey players. Some of the most avoidable and unfortunately common field hockey injuries occur when basic safety precautions aren’t taken or enforced by supervising staff, coaches and qualified first aiders. 

Other Essential Considerations for Field Hockey Safety   

For their own safety and that of their teammates and bystanders, all field hockey players should always ask for permission from the supervising coach before using any hockey equipment as part of the session, including sticks and balls.

Female Hockey Player in Locker Room

It might seem common sense, but coaches, team managers and field hockey players should take their safety equipment and protective gear seriously. Wearing items such as gum shields, knee pads, gloves, and other protective pieces can significantly reduce the risk of, or at least the severity of injuries, even for the worst hockey injuries. Our blog covers everything you need to know about hockey safety equipment and field hockey and ice hockey’s governing body’s requirements.

To protect the safety of everyone on-site, club managers, premises supervisors, and coaches must ensure a suitable contingency plan if a coach is running late or doesn’t turn up.

hockey coach

Expert Advice for Preventing the Most Common Ice Hockey Injuries

One of the most important preventative measures ice hockey teams can take to reduce the risk of serious injury from ice hockey is wearing the right gear. Wearing essential protective equipment can protect ice hockey players from a wide range of serious injuries. 

For example, a premium quality, well-fitting helmet can prevent an ice hockey neck injury and a serious concussion. And elbow pads, arm guards, and body pads can protect players from an ice hockey elbow injury or a hockey hip injury caused by a fall or impact with other players. 

As well as sourcing professional-quality safety equipment, ice hockey sports physios recommend the following ice hockey injury prevention measures for some of the most frequent ice hockey injuries. We explore these below.

Hockey Action Shot
How to prevent ice hockey knee injuries

One of the more serious and common ice hockey knee injuries is an MCL injury. The MCL is the Medial Collateral Ligament located on the knee’s inner side, linking the shin and thigh bones. In most instances, an MCL injury is classified as a sprain caused when the knee joint is impacted by another player or a fall on the ice. It can also be caused by the joint over-twisting when their skate gets caught.

To prevent ice hockey knee injuries, including an MCL injury, ice hockey players are recommended to wear an additional knee support sleeve, protective strapping such as EAB around the joint, or sports tape. Check out our blog on applying sports tape to the knee to learn the best techniques. Of course, all players must wear all required knee pads and leg protection items that are part of their ice hockey safety equipment during all training sessions and formal matches to maximise on hockey injury prevention.

Sports physiotherapists usually recommend strength-building exercises using wobble boards or balance pads for players with a previous MCL injury to better support the joint and connected muscles, reducing the risk of further damage.

How to prevent an ice hockey groin injury

Groin injuries are commonly reported by all hockey players, not just those on the ice. 

Groin strains are the most likely lower body injury hockey players can suffer from, and they can be painful as well as impact mobility and performance during play. 

Sports physios and coaches alike will recommend any athlete, not just an ice hockey player, to ensure that a thorough warm-up and focused sequence of stretches takes place before any form of activity to prevent the incidence of an unpleasant hockey groin injury. 

Hockey Team Getting Ready 1
How to prevent ice hockey foot injuries 

The nature of play on the ice places huge pressure and strain on hockey players’ feet. Perhaps the most common (and severe) foot trauma in ice hockey, ankle injury reports can range from a bump and bruise to a severe sprain, tear, or even a broken or fractured ankle joint. 

The ice hockey skate shoe is an essential part of protecting ice hockey players’ feet and ankles. Investing in a high-quality, well-designed and properly-fitted pair of ice hockey skates is essential. Warm-up exercises and training sessions should incorporate foot and ankle joint stretches and strength-building sequences regularly. 

For ice hockey players vulnerable to hockey foot injuries, check out our article on how to strap your ankle for the best tips on applying sports tape the most effectively to protect that area from over-extension. 


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