The game of hockey has changed dramatically over the years, with players increasing in size and strength as the speed of the game increases. With bigger, stronger players flying around the ice faster than before, the risk of head injuries increases as well.
Hockey is also a game for “tough guys” and in order to uphold that image, most players will ignore the symptoms of a concussion or return to the ice too soon.
Concussions can sometimes happen in contact sports like hockey. However, because most people are not familiar with how to recognize a concussion, these injuries often go unreported by the athlete, untreated, undiagnosed or even misdiagnosed.
A concussion is a serious injury, no matter how “minor” it appears to be, and the proper diagnosis and treatment means a prolonged and safer career for players.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention has provided a list of symptoms to look for whether you’re an athlete, a coach or a parent and what the course of action should be in treating the injury.
• Headache or “pressure” in the head
• Nausea or vomiting
• Balance problems or dizziness
• Double or blurry vision
• Bothered by light and/or noise
• Feeling sluggish, hazy, foggy or groggy
• Difficulty paying attention
• Memory problems
• Don’t “feel right”
If you think you have a concussion, follow these steps:
1) Tell your coaches and your parents
2) Get a medical check up
3) Give yourself time to get better
It’s important to be HONEST about how you are feeling. Concussions left untreated are cause for concern because you are more likely to sustain the injury again, and permanent damage becomes more likely the more concussions you receive. It is better to miss a game or two than an entire season.
While it is not possible to eliminate your concussion risk by 100 percent, there are a few guidelines you can follow to lower your chances.
• Follow your coach’s rules for safety and the rules of the game
• Practice good sportsmanship at all times
• Use the proper equipment. And remember, in order for your equipment to protect you like it was designed to do it must be the right equipment for the game, position or activity, it must be worn correctly and fit well and it must be used every time you play.
How to recognize a concussion:
• Athlete appears dazed or stunned
• Is confused about assignment or position
• Forgets sports plays
• Is unsure of game, score or opponent
• Moves clumsily
• Answers questions slowly
• Loses consciousness (even briefly)
• Shows behavior or personality changes
• Can’t recall events prior to hit or fall
• Can’t recall events after hit or fall
If you suspect a player has experienced a concussion, follow these steps:
1) Remove the athlete from play
2) Ensure that the athlete is evaluated right away by an appropriate health care professional
3) Inform the athlete’s parents or guardians about the possible concussion
4) Allow the athlete to return to play only with permission from a health care professional with experience evaluating for concussion
As a coach, it is your job to ensure that safety is the number one concern of your players. All concussions are serious and should be treated properly to prevent long-term damage. Instead of pushing your players to return before they have been cleared, encourage them to take the time to heal. Winning one game is not as important as preventing your players from suffering long-term damage because they got back on the ice too soon.
Letting your son/daughter heal completely before returning to play will decrease the likelihood of permanent damage if another concussion should take place.
Also, be sure that you inform coaches in ALL sports your child participates in of any recent concussions.
The Right Bite
Hockey players who chew on their mouth guards like a baby teething on a pacifier aren’t doing themselves or their team any favors.
A pacifier won’t safeguard a baby’s first teeth, and a mouth guard won’t protect a player’s teeth or prevent a concussion if it’s hanging out of the side of your mouth or dangling from a strap.
Improperly wearing a mouth guard can also cost you time in the penalty box. First comes a warning and then you sit for 10 minutes for violating Rule 304 c.
Coaches First-Aid Kit (RECOMMENDED)
The kit should include:
• 20 Band-Aids
• 1-2 rolls of plastic tape
• 2-4 sterile gauze pads
• 3-4 Small Ziplock bags (to be used as ice packs)
• 1-2 chemical ice packs
• 2 or more pairs of latex gloves
• 2 or more alcohol wipes or disinfectant wipes
• List of emergency telephone numbers for parents of players
• List of supplies contained in the kit
Additional Items may include:
• Mouth to mouth breathing device (used when performing CPR)
• Triple antibiotic ointment
• Oral Airway (for unconscious players or players having a seizure)
• Tooth saver kit (small vial of saline to store a tooth for later re-implantation)
• Elastic bandage (for sprained ankles and a triangular bandage to be used as a sling)