It’s no secret: Hockey is Minnesota’s bread and butter. With more than 100 hockey players per 10,000 people within the state, Minnesota ranks second in the nation for highest concentration of hockey fanatics. With all the thrills that come with a hard-earned goal or a strategic check into the boards, you can also expect some bumps and bruises. As with any contact sport, it isn’t uncommon for injury to come hand in hand with fun and experience.
Sometimes you can treat acute pain and injuries on your own, but an initial assessment and recommendation for treatment by a physician is always the preferred route so not to risk further injury. When hockey injury strikes, get into your nearest Urgency Room. With state-of-the-art facilities and equipment, physician-owned and –operated Urgency Rooms are open every single day of the year—even during long hockey weekends. A bruise on a knee could be a serious injury that requires more treatment than an ice pack—instead of taking a risk, get the treatment you need.
Be prepared for what could happen on the rink. Watch out for these four common hockey injuries during your hit-packed hockey career, and get back on the ice quicker with the right care from The Urgency Room.
Indicated by neck pain and stiffness, back pain, and even pain or numbness in your arms, whiplash can happen any time there is an unexpected or abrupt backward or forward motion of the neck. This injury happens most often when getting hit or falling suddenly (imagine getting accidentally checked from behind or taken off-guard from the side), causing your head to jerk and your neck to get strained.
The stress, speed and compaction of discs in your neck/vertebrae can cause minor to major soft tissue damage to muscles and ligaments. Understanding the severity of your whiplash is important to a speedy recovery, but be careful, you might not even realize you have the symptoms of whiplash until an entire day after your incident.
2. ACL/PCL Injuries
The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) are two critical ligaments running in front of and behind your knee joint. In tandem, these ligaments provide stability and the ability to flex and extend your knee. As important as they are, they are also most often the first parts to become injured in an athlete’s knee.
Injuries to a PCL or ACL happen most often in sports like hockey where there is a tremendous amount of side-to-side movement, cutting, juking, pivoting and more. An ACL sprain or tear happens most often when an athlete turns while their foot stays planted. A PCL injury, on the other hand, happens when an athlete hyperextends their knee or takes an extreme impact to it. Determining the severity of an ACL or PCL injury is usually done with an MRI scan—this will expose any tears. If torn, surgery will need to take place, but if it’s just a sprain, resting, ice and elevation could be all you need.
3. Bruises (Contusions)
We’ve all had our fair share of bumps and bruises in our lifetimes—but few have had as many as the average hockey player. Bruises, or contusions, are when small blood vessels under your skin rupture. The blood that leaks under your skin from these ruptures is what causes your skin to appear black and blue (then every other color in the rainbow as it heals). Although fairly common in day-to-day living, bruises may still need medical assistance.
It’s important to seek the help of a physician for a bruise if the affected area is also extremely swollen, painful or red. If a large bruise is keeping you from moving a joint, you could also have more severe damage, such as a broken bone. To eliminate the existence of damage beyond bruising, you could need X-rays or other diagnostic tests to be performed.
4. Ankle Sprains
Hockey is a sport that’s especially tough on the ankles. An all-too-common injury is the ankle sprain. Occurring when your ankle rolls outward, causing ligaments to stretch or tear, seeking help for your strain is never a bad idea as damage can range from mild to severe. Walking or bearing weight on a severe ankle sprain can only make matters worse, so seek medical assistance if possible. If anything, you’ll also rule out a broken ankle.
Most of the time, you’ll notice when your ankle has rolled. You’ll feel almost immediate pain around your ankle, and that pain will soon be accompanied by swelling and tenderness. Many times, you will be instructed to RICE (rest, ice, compress and elevate) your sprained ankle for a range of time, usually one to three days, determined by your doctor. However, a severe sprain could mean more treatment or physical therapy in your future.
How to Prevent the Most Common Hockey Injuries from Happening to You
While injury may seem unavoidable in the course of contact sports, there are steps you can take to stave off even the most common injuries. Before beginning any practice, make sure you’re properly warmed up. Off-skates exercises like jogging and stretching will help warm and limber up your muscles. Pay particular attention to properly stretching the joints and muscles you’ll be using most during a hockey game or practice.
Additionally, double-check your safety equipment. Modern safety equipment is always best as it’s designed to be lightweight to allow movement as well as endure multiple hard impacts. Always make sure your safety gear is being worn properly, i.e., skates are laced tightly enough to stabilize your ankle, mouth guard is closely formed to your teeth, chin strap on helmet is fastened, etc. Similarly, make sure you’re wearing all of your protective equipment, even if a drill has you just standing around—your ankles, neck, back and more will thank you for playing it safe. Even a simple slip on the ice can wreak havoc if you aren’t prepared for it, which could have you sitting on the bench for the rest of a season.
When Hockey Hits Back, Get to The Urgency Room
Crashes and spills are simply a part of hockey—but that doesn’t mean you have to face the injuries that come with them. Staying geared up with the right safety equipment and making sure your muscles and joints are properly warmed can prevent some serious injuries. But if you do get hurt, don’t hesitate to get to The Urgency Room. What you may think is just a bruise could be something more serious, and problem left untreated will only become worse.
Our passionate and experienced physicians started these standalone clinics as a way to help people with acute injury and illness without forcing them to stand around a crowded waiting for hours. Clean, fast and efficient; that’s what you can expect at the UR. With convenient and easily accessible locations in Eagan, Vadnais Heights and Woodbury, you can easily cruise from a Minneapolis hockey tournament straight to a nearby UR to be seen within minutes—not hours. When the ice gets the best of you, get the help you need faster.