In Canada, sport and recreation have become the second leading cause of injuries, after motor vehicle accidents. Studies in Quebec and Ontario show that hockey has more injuries than any other sport. In 1986 in Ontario, 66 per cent of players in minor leagues and 54 per cent in adult leagues had injuries at an average cost per treatment of $400. The annual cost of medical care for these injuries is $164 million. These are high risks and high costs! It is obvious that communities need to learn more about hockey safety. Though this article concentrates on hockey, the information applies to all sports at all levels.
Remove the athlete from the playing area to a rest area.
Ice the injured part for 20 minutes, remove ice for two hours, then reapply for another 20 minutes. Cover the ice with a towel. Anyone who has not done the R.I.C.E. procedure before should be supervised.
Apply pressure using a tensor bandage on the injured area. Make sure the bandage is not too tight.
During and after using the ice, raise the injured part above the level of the heart.
Prevention of Athletic Injuries
The first step toward injury prevention is a medical check-up. This is when physical conditions or diseases that can affect an athlete's ability to compete safely may come to light. The doctor should be told a person is interested in playing hockey and about any injuries or illness since the last visit.
A healthy lifestyle, including proper nutrition, exercise and rest can help athletes perform well and prevent injuries. Alcohol or drugs are not part of a healthy lifestyle. They can make an athlete more prone to personal injury and create hazards for other players.
Hockey involves many knocks and blows from body checks, hits from the puck and collisions with the boards or net. Protective equipment helps prevent injuries from these forces. Correct fit is important. Equipment purchased in larger sizes to allow a child 'a few years to grow' can lead to serious injuries. Equipment should be CSA (Canadian Standards Association) approved and kept in good repair. Protective equipment should be worn whenever hockey is played or practiced, not just during games.
Many needless injuries can be prevented by inspecting the playing area before the activity starts. In hockey, the coach or captain can quickly inspect the boards for large splinters, ensure the gates are closed and check the ice surface for holes.
An athlete in good physical condition will compete more safely. In a sport such as hockey, an athlete needs to be able to keep going for long spells (aerobic power), perform fast explosive activities (anaerobic power) and have strength, endurance and flexibility.
A correct warm-up can reduce the chance of pulls and strains. A warm-up that takes an athlete from the resting state to the working state should last five to 10 minutes and make the person sweat. After a good warm-up, each muscle to be used should have been stretched. The stretch position should be held for 10 to 15 seconds and repeated three times. Hockey players should include stretching of the groin, hamstring and back muscles, along with arms and legs.
Good hygiene should be practised by all athletes, since many infections spread easily without proper care. Some common ways in which infections are spread from athlete to athlete include sharing water bottles (especially if one has a cold), sharing towels, and showering without wearing footwear. Personal cleanliness and clean facilities help prevent infections.
An athlete with poor technique can cause serious injury. In hockey, if an athlete does not know how to body check the opposing player correctly, both could suffer serious injuries. Coaches should put as much emphasis on this aspect of the game as they do on strategy.
Understanding and playing by the rules can reduce the chance of injury. Coaches and parents should support fair play, not the 'win at all costs' attitude. This will decrease the chance of injury and allow the athlete to enjoy the game to the fullest.
Proper care of injuries helps reduce the chance of them occurring again. A doctor may refer the athlete to a therapist who will help to develop a rehabilitation program.
Many injuries can be prevented by following the guidelines listed above, but injuries still occur. When they do, proper care at the outset is important. The injury should be assessed by someone who knows first aid. Minor injuries can often be cared for using the RICE procedure.
WHEN IN DOUBT - REFER
Teachers, coaches, parents, and friends faced with an injured athlete and unsure of what to do should refer the person to someone who does know. Doctors recommend that people who are supervising sports and athletes take an athletic first aid course. This will ensure the best immediate care and lower the chance of long-term effects of injuries.