How to play hockey safely

How to play hockey safely

Hockey may not initially inspire thoughts of the world’s safest sport. With a reputation for brawls on the ice and toothless grins, parents may be understandably cautious about signing up their kids for the community hockey league.

However, with the proper precautions (and protective gear), the game can be played safely while those on the ice reduce their chance of injury.

Hockey is a unique sport, says Mark Salandra, a certified strength and conditioning specialist and the founder of StrengthCondition.com (a Physiquality partner program). “It incorporates speed, agility and strength in ways that no other sport tests the body,” he explains. As with any sport, injuries can be caused by a variety of factors, including the level of participation, player position, protective equipment, violent behavior, and personal susceptibility due to pre-existing injuries and style of play.

Hockey leagues have been studying concussions seriously over the last few years.The most dangerous injury that hockey players are susceptible to is the one most difficult to avoid, notes Mark. Given the fast pace on the ice, collisions with other players, as well as the rink walls, are inevitable, and such hits can lead to concussions. As with football, hockey leagues have been studying the injury seriously, advocating a variety of measures designed to reduce concussions, particularly among younger players.

USA Hockey, the organization that oversees amateur hockey associations in the U.S., advises all players young and old to protect the head by wearing a helmet when playing. They have posted tips and created training, for both parents and coaches, on how to keep players safe. Most importantly, they explain how to look for signs of a concussion: Looking dazed or confused, being unable to remember post-injury events, having problems with concentration or balance, or even simply irritability. Should a parent, coach or athlete notice these symptoms, particularly if the athlete is showing more than one symptom, it’s time to talk to a doctor.

Be screened before the hockey season begins by an experienced physical therapist or physician.Most hockey injuries involve the soft tissues, like bruises, muscle strains, ligament tears, and cuts, Mark notes, but serious injuries are possible, and players should avoid dangerous tactics. To prevent injuries, hockey players should:

  • Be screened before the season begins by an experienced physical therapist or physician. This should identify existing injuries and uncover deficiencies.
  • Participate in a sports-specific conditioning program to avoid physical overload.
  • Wear high-quality equipment that fits well and is not damaged, worn-out, or undersized.
  • Play by the rules. Players and coaches should always demonstrate sportsmanship and mutual respect for their opponents and the officials.

Mark suggests that hockey players focus on four areas in order to improve their abilities and reduce injuries: the core, leg strength, upper body strength, and flexibility.

Core strength is very important because hockey players are constantly twisting and turning, and getting up off the ice onto their skates. Key core strengthening exercises that hockey players can do are crunches, planks and Superman exercises. Mark advises tightening your transversus abdominis during these exercises (that’s the deepest abdominal muscle, the one you feel contracting when you cough).

By incorporating such exercises as lunges, squats, leg extensions and calf raises, hockey players will increase leg strength and reduce their risk of leg injuries.While it shouldn’t be surprising that leg strength is key to a sport that involves skating on a slippery surface, Mark points out that ice hockey is different in that athletes have to go from start to stop, and stop to start, very quickly with explosive power. By incorporating such exercises as lunges, squats, leg extensions and curls, and calf raises, players will increase leg strength and reduce their risk of leg injuries.

Between swinging a hockey stick and colliding with other players (and walls), upper body strength is essential to reducing injuries. A comprehensive strengthening program should include such upper body exercises as bench and shoulder presses, biceps and wrist curls, triceps extensions, and rotator cuff exercises like doorway stretches and lawn mower pulls.

Given the various directions that hockey players move in during a match, flexibility can help improve a player’s mobility. Mark recommends doing a warm-up, as well as stretching, before any activity, and reminds athletes to stretch only to the point of resistance, not pain. All stretching should be done slowly and carefully, particularly if you’re on the ice. And stretching after activity can help your body recuperate faster.

Speaking of recuperation, don’t forget the most important part of your activity — rest. The more rested you are, the better you’ll perform on game day. “It is only after your workout, when you are resting and replenishing your body with protein and other nutrients, when the body heals and gets stronger. This is why I live by the motto, ‘Train hard, but rest harder,’” says Mark.


Your local Physiquality physical therapist is an excellent resource for athletic training, injury prevention and advice and treatment if you do sustain an injury. Use our therapist finder to locate the professional nearest you.

Mark Salandra, CSCS Mark Salandra, CSCS, is the founder of StrengthCondition.com, one of Physiquality’s partner programs. Mark educates and trains athletes young and old in strength and conditioning, with the goals of better fitness and lower rates of injury.

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Preventing baseball injuries

Spring training is over and baseball season has begun. And while most sports injuries are as unexpected as the Cubs leading the American League at the beginning of June, there are a few things that parents and coaches — and baseball players — should know about preventing injuries during the sport.

Mark Salandra educates and trains athletes young and old in strength and conditioning, with the goals of better fitness and lower rates of injury. A certified strength and conditioning specialist, and the founder of StrengthCondition.com, a Physiquality partner program, he points out five common injuries and conditions that players should be aware of.

  1. Shoulder pain and rotator cuff tears

If an athlete has chronic pain in his shoulder that will not go away after applying ice and heat, he needs to see a doctor or physical therapist. Chronic shoulder pain may not mean that the athlete has torn his rotator cuff, but if the tendon has been torn, further activity can make the injury worse.

  1. Lateral epicondylitis, also known as tennis elbow

Epicondylitis often presents with pain in the elbow joint from repeated throwing motions.Epicondylitis often presents with pain in the elbow joint from repeated throwing motions. In most cases, says Mark, the triceps muscles are not strong enough to slow down the arm once the ball has been thrown, which in turn puts extra pressure on the elbow joint. If the player has chronic elbow pain, rest with ice and heat should resolve this issue in several days. If the pain doesn’t resolve, then it’s time for a visit with the physical therapist or doctor.

  1. Lower extremity muscle strains and knee injuries

Baseball happens in quick spurts of action, like hitting the ball and then running the bases, or reacting to a base hit by running to catch the ball. The rapid acceleration and just-as-quick deceleration can strain the muscles in the upper leg, particularly the quadriceps and hamstrings, which are used when running sprints. Many athletes are also at risk for such knee injuries as meniscus tears and ACL tears. If the knee pain doesn’t go away after a few days of rest and ice, you’ll need to see your doctor or physical therapist for a more thorough examination.

  1. Head injuries and concussions

For baseball players, head injuries are difficult to prevent, because they usually happen spontaneously, like from a stray ball or a collision on the field. Mark reminds players to wear a helmet at all times and to stay alert.

  1. Heat exhaustion

 Athletes must stay hydrated and drink plenty of water before, during and after each game.As with any sport, particularly those that are played outside on hot days, hydration is vital. Athletes must stay hydrated and drink plenty of water before, during and after each game. Don’t wait until your player starts to feel lightheaded or has a rapid pulse; it will be too late. Coaches should require that all baseball players bring water to each game and drink during rest periods.

After many years of strength training young baseball players, Mark says that in most cases, injuries come down to two factors: Either the child is not strong enough to perform the motions/actions being asked of him, or the child is injured from overuse.

Players can reduce the risk of some of the above injuries through conditioning.Strengthening the rotator cuff muscles (the set of four muscles that controls the joint) and increasing the range of motion in the joint can minimize rotator cuff tears. Strengthening both the biceps and triceps muscles, particularly for pitchers, should help to reduce the risk for epicondylitis. And knee injuries can be reduced by stretching the knee joint and strengthening the leg muscles around the knee — the stronger your legs are, the more force the muscles can handle around the knee joint. A proper strength training program, combined with teaching the proper technique for throwing, batting and running, will help reduce these injuries.

Younger pitchers are throwing too hard, too fast, too much, too soon.As for overuse, it comes in different forms, but it’s most commonly seen in pitchers and catchers who throw too many pitches and then have shoulder and elbow pain. Mark points to children playing two, three, even four baseball games in a day. As a trainer for the Detroit Tigers told Bleacher Report in 2014, teen pitchers are throwing “too hard, too fast, too much, too soon.” These athletes are not only running the risk of injury, but mental and physical burnout.

As noted in the descriptions above, and as we’ve mentioned plenty of times in the past,rest is an essential part of being an athlete. “It is only after your workout, when you are resting and replenishing your body with protein and other nutrients, when the body heals and gets stronger,” Mark says. It’s why he lives by the motto, “Train hard, but rest harder.”

Why are younger athletes burning out of sports?

Why are younger athletes burning out of sports?

There are many reasons to sign your kids up for sports teams. They’ll build strong muscles and bones by being active, make friends and learn how to get along with others, and become more confident as they improve on the field. But many kids burn out and quit playing before they graduate from high school. Why?

“Parents and coaches need to remember that the primary goals of playing sports when younger are to improve motor skills while learning how to be a part of a team,” says Mark Salandra. A certified strength and conditioning coach who works with many student athletes as the founder of StrengthCondition.com (a Physiquality partner vendor), Mark often sees parents (and coaches) that emphasize competition over fun.

Constant practice and competition can cause both mental and physical burnout.These parents will see that a child has a talent for baseball or tennis and start encouraging the child to sign up for multiple leagues for the same sport. Or the coaches will suggest that Noah or Ashley won’t be able to get an athletic scholarship if he or she doesn’t start practicing the same sport year round. Mark explains that this constant practice and competition can cause two types of burnout: physical and mental.

Jeff Rothstein, an exercise physiologist and the Director of Sports Enhancement at the PT Center for Sports Medicine in Akron, Ohio, equates physical burnout with increased risk of injury. Jeff encourages parents to think about the repetitive motion many sports require — repeated kicks of a soccer ball with one leg, the constant swinging of a bat in baseball, or the motion required to serve in tennis. If athletes have off seasons or play multiple sports throughout the year, he says, they will strengthen multiple muscle groups and let other muscles recuperate. But add up two to three leagues a year in one sport and the athlete’s muscles never get a chance to recover, leading to overuse injuries.

Mark and Jeff agree that mental burnout can be just as detrimental. Ask any eight-year-old what his favorite color or cartoon character is, and he won’t hesitate to answer. But if you ask him again a week later, his answer may be completely different. So why should he choose which sport to do at such a young age? In reality, Jeff says, by the time that boy reaches high school, the sport he loved as an eight-year-old has become a chore. Weekend fun with friends is passed over for tournaments played out of state. Holiday breaks are spent refining techniques with specialized coaches. Athletes who burn out like this may quit playing all sports, leading to a sedentary lifestyle and the health risks that come into play when one is overweight.

Many of our most revered professional athletes excelled in multiple sports.The irony in all of this is that kids (and the parents who encourage them) who specialize at such a young age usually think that this will help them to succeed in the sport, leading to scholarships or even a professional career. But Jeff points out that many of our most revered professional athletes excelled in multiple sports. Basketball star LeBron James was an all-state receiver on his high school football team. Tom Brady was drafted by the Montreal Expos baseball team before playing football at the University of Michigan and for the New England Patriots. And this goes for successful collegiate teams as well: At Ohio State University, 42 of the 47 football players on the team that won the 2015 college football national championship were multi-sport athletes.

Aside from reducing the risk of overuse injuries and mental burnout, these multi-sport players gain more athleticism. The skills gained in one sport can enhance those for another. And best of all, each sport feels fresher on the field when not played every week, and the athlete can enjoy the sport for what it is — a game.

 

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Playing soccer safely

With the Champions League final coming up in Berlin between Juventus and Barcelona, and soccer summer leagues starting soon, it’s a good time to think about playing soccer. And given the high rate of some injuries while playing soccer, it’s even more important to consider how to play the sport more safely.

As any athlete (or sports parent) knows, playing sports brings the risk of cuts, bruises and contact injuries (from running into an opponent or teammate). While many soccer injuries occur in the lower extremities (the hips, legs and ankles), some players may experience neck sprains or shoulder injuries after a collision with a fellow player or a fall to the ground.

Keeping your head in the game.Use your head… or should you?

One common category of soccer injuries that’s been getting more attention in recent years is brain injuries and concussions. Scientific American asked the same question in multiple articles in 2013 and 2014: Does heading a soccer ball cause brain damage? The short answer is, yes, it can; the author of the most recent article states that “heading a soccer ball can contribute to neurodegenerative problems, such as chronic traumatic encephalopathy.”

– See more at: http://www.physiquality.com/blog/?p=7807#sthash.wl0WHpSO.dpuf

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Encouraging kids to make healthy decisions

If you’re a parent, this probably sounds familiar: You’ve worked to make a healthy meal for your son (or daughter), but he’d rather have a cereal bar. Or snack foods. Or nothing. So how do you encourage him to eat healthy food and make responsible choices when eating?

Nutrition and fitness expert Anna Dark encourages parents and caregivers to be patient and positive. She says, “The goal is to get them to adopt the healthier choices because it is GOOD for THEM and ultimately will form a good habit that will take them into their adulthood!” After earning her degree in nutrition, Anna became the Fitness Director at the Take Charge Fitness Program at Clinton Physical Therapy Center, a Physiquality member in Clinton, Tennessee.

Avoid comparisons to other children.Anna recommends avoiding comparisons to other kids, orshaming them by saying they are “fat;” this is especially true for girls, who have plenty of societal pressure to look a certain way. Such negative reinforcement will only lead children to associate eating better with punishment, rather than health.

Use your child’s hero as a positive way to get a child to eat better or to become more active, suggests Anna. For example, she says, “If your child’s hero is an athlete like Kobe Bryant, you could say, ‘Did you know that Kobe Bryant eats raw vegetables so he can be fast?’” Read More

How do you know if your child’s coach is a good one?

The mistreatment of athletes by coaches is nothing new (see Knight, Bobby), but it does seem to be getting more attention in the past few years. Stories of athlete abuse and harassment at such universities as Rutgers and the University of Tennessee — and even at the Olympic level — have made national headlines, while stories of coaches to younger athletes are chilling: The California teen paralyzed after tackling an opponent head first during a football game, a technique taught to him by his Pop Warner coaches, or the story of a coach berating a young player in front of his teammates, calling him a “f—ing retard.”

Studies back up these anecdotes. A 2011 paper published in the UK found that among 6,000 student athletes polled across the U.K., “75% said they suffered ‘emotional harm’ at least once, and one-third of them said their coach was the culprit.” And a 2005 study in the U.S. found that “45% of the student athletes said their coaches called them names, insulted them or verbally abused them another way during play.”

How can we make sure our children's coaches encourage with positive reinforcement?So how do we protect our children and make sure their coaches encourage with positive reinforcement, rather than belittling them?  Read More

 

Celebrating Family Health and Fitness Day

Americans young and old have been gaining weight and slowing down. A report on physical activity and health from the U.S. Surgeon General’s office in the late 1990s found that “nearly half of young people aged 12-21 are not vigorously active on a regular basis” and that more than 60% of adults aren’t as active as they should be.

(A more recent study in 2010 didn’t show any improvement, finding that only 15% of high school students achieve the recommendations set by the CDC for physical activity.)

These findings led to the creation of Family Health and Fitness Day on September 28, a celebration marking its 17th year in 2013 that celebrates activity for the whole family.

Why is this something Americans should commemorate?  Read More

Improving safety for younger athletes

As our population grows, so too does the number of children participating in organized sports. Safe Kids USA, a global organization dedicated to preventing injuries in children, estimates that there are 38 million kids who play sports each year. Of those, almost 10%, or 3.5 million, sustain some type of injury on the field, injuries that can often be prevented.

Mark Salandra, CSCS, the founder of StrengthCondition.com (one of Physiquality’s partner programs), says that several things contribute to these injuries:  Read More