Photo Credit: Heather Pollock Photography
When entering their kids into youth sports parents are always looking for an option where their kids will have fun and be safe. While with any physical activity there’s no guarantee of a child not being injured, there are ways to drastically reduce the risk. Combined with already existing measures like Rowan’s Law education and the STOP patch on the back of jerseys, player safety is always a top priority in hockey.
As with pricing for equipment and level of time commitment, there are options that exist for parents when it comes to bodychecking. The skill is only allowed at the Bantam age group and above at the Representative level where players are progressively taught the proper techniques in how to safely separate the opposing players from the puck.
Taking preventative steps can help cut the risk of injury and some of it takes place before players even hit the ice. Here are some keys parents can remember when it comes to player safety.
Deciding to specialize in a single sport at a young age reduces a player’s potential as an overall athlete. It also increases the risk of mental burnout and overuse injuries, where the stress of repetitive actions puts a strain on the bodies that are still developing. Without time to rest, recover and grow, athletes have a harder time to excel.
Eating meals full of nutrients gives your body fuel to perform at its best on the ice. It also helps players recover faster which in turn decreases their chances of injury. Hydration is also an important key in player safety, reducing the risk of muscle cramps. A recent study by ParticipACTION details how kids are not getting enough sleep. Lack of sleep can have a trickle-down effect on the daily lives of kids. From trouble focusing to shorter attention spans, the study explains why sleep is so important.
Each piece of equipment plays a role in helping to protect a specific area of the body, which is why it’s important to have gear that fits now, not gear that your child will grow into. It should have a snug (not tight) fit and not shift when in motion. If gear is too large it will shift around on the body, restricting movement on the ice and not fully protect the body as it’s supposed to.
Players need to train with age-appropriate exercises and conditioning. Limiting their workload prevents muscle fatigue. Those looking for off-ice training for the off-season can check out the 30/30 Challenge from the OMHA Players Club presented by HockeyShot or the Hit the Gym video series.
Teaching players about sportsmanship and respect for safety and rules helps create a safer environment for everyone involved. This should be taught at the beginning of the year and reminded throughout the season. Building and acknowledging these habits are just some of the values that players can learn from hockey.
Off-ice safety also carries back home to when the game is done. Players should clean their equipment to prevent buildup of bacteria. Disinfecting and washing gear often not only helps remove the buildup of mould but can also help alleviate the well-known hockey smell.
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If a player is injured and unable to go on the ice it does not mean they have to be limited to the figurative sidelines. Keeping the connection open helps players stay involved and makes them feel like they are not missing anything by being away from a team. Coaches can be creative and come up with roles for those players to keep them engaged in a safe way where they will not risk making the injury worse.