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Kids playing roller hockey

Youth Hockey Injuries

Speed, skill, slapshots, slashing. These are just a few words to describe a sport that ranks third in overall injuries among young athletes.

Recent research indicates hockey injuries have doubled in the last 15 years.

Hockey injuries can range from sprains and strains to concussions with symptoms that affect performance on and off the ice.

To keep young hockey players out of the injury “penalty box,” parents and coaches need to understand the importance of:

Common Hockey Injuries


Hockey is a high-speed collision sport, and head injuries are inevitable. Even though a collision may leave athletes thinking they are still able to skate, it doesn’t mean they haven’t suffered a concussion.

Make sure staff, coaches, parents, and athletes understand the symptoms of a concussion, which primarily include mental fogginess and a headache. All suspected concussions should be medically evaluated.

UPMC Sports Medicine and the Pittsburgh Penguins Foundation offer free hockey baseline concussion testing.

Other contact injuries

Beyond concussion, contact injuries can occur to the:

  • Shoulders — Typically, hockey players suffer a shoulder separation or broken collarbone due to contact with players, boards, or the ice.
  • Elbows — Elbow injuries occur secondary to protecting the puck. Tissues that protect the elbow joint can be repeatedly bumped and, without intervention, can affect how athletes protect themselves and how they pass the puck.
  • Wrists — Fractures are common in the wrist due to slips and falls on ice or ramming into the boards.

Overuse injuries

Injuries occur as the body adapts to repeated and prolonged trunk flexion with wide hip motions as muscles become weak or tight.

  • Back injuries — The back usually suffers muscle or joint strain due to checking and hyperextension.
  • Hip and groin injuries — The mechanics of skating put significant stress on the hip joints and surrounding muscles. Most common injuries to the hips are groin or hip flexor strains, due to explosive contractions and inflexibility. Even though padding can protect those areas most susceptible to a direct impact, hockey players may still experience hip pointers or bursitis.
  • Knee injuries — Also, due to the mechanics of hockey, the knee is vulnerable to ligament sprains as athletes push off the inside of the skate blade.

The experts at UPMC Sports Medicine’s Young Athlete Program can work with your pediatrician to evaluate and aggressively treat your hockey player's injury to help prevent more serious long-term effects.

Causes of Hockey Injuries

  • Inappropriate or ill-fitting equipment
  • Not following rules and regulations
  • Violent behavior
  • Pre-existing injuries
  • Poor warm-up before games
  • Poor hockey-specific conditioning
  • Poor lower extremity flexibility
  • Poor core strength

Diagram of hockey equipment on a young boy

Preventing Hockey Injuries

Because one out of every four hockey injury involves the head, it is crucial for young hockey players to wear face masks for protection. They should also wear position-specific equipment.

A preseason hockey physical or screening can identify any deficits in:

  • Flexibility
  • Strength
  • Agility

With proper exercise, your young hockey player can remedy these deficits for an injury-free season.

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The Young Athlete Program

UPMC Sports Medicine’s Young Athlete Program provides individualized attention for injury prevention and management. Regardless of age or sport, we have the expertise, technology, and services to make a difference for your young athlete.

Call 1-855-93-SPORT (77678) for more information or to make an appointment.

Physical Therapy

Our partner, UPMC Centers for Rehab Services, offers your young athlete physical therapy at more than 50 locations throughout western Pa.

Call 1-888-723-4CRS (4277) to find an office near you or to make an appointment.

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