Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Hockey Hurts

Two years after our first trip to the ER when my Pee Wee son went fist-first into the boards, we found ourselves back in the emergency room this past weekend with another painful injury. My Bantam boy was cross-checked during tournament play and he got slammed... shoulder-first this time ....into the boards. We're not sure, and maybe it was a combination of events, but we strongly suspect that was the leading cause of the injury to his right shoulder. He kept on playing, but when he kept missing passes and his skating slowed considerably, we knew something was wrong. After the game, when he finally confessed he couldn't raise his arm above his waist, we took him to the emergency room. Five hours and two X-rays later, the doctors at the hospital ER told us the shoulder wasn't broken and it appeared to be a very bad bruise around the bone. Ibuprofen, ice and keep it in a sling, for now, the doctors told us and follow up with an orthopedic expert when you can. Relieved, but not convinced there wasn't more to this extremely painful injury, we placed a call to my son's orthopedic surgeon's office the next day ( hard to believe a kid has an orthopedic surgeon at the age of 14, but I guess that's not all that unusual in youth hockey). The office told us to get him in right away. We did. A good call not to wait and thank the Lord we've got a medical expert who knows how to read X-rays! He delivered the heartbreaking confirmation of what we had feared. It WAS a break and not "just a bad bruise." A broken clavicle at the growth plate will keep him off the ice for a minimum of four and possibly as long as six weeks, depending on what his next X-ray shows. No hockey, no skating, no stick handling in the driveway. Nothing. He can still text, so we're not at the total meltdown phase. Tough news to take though, when you've worked so hard to make the high school Varsity hockey team and all summer you couldn't wait to get back on the ice for your last final youth hockey year with the good buddies you've grown up with on the ice. He's sidelined and miserable. Physical pain ? It's intense, but he seems to be dealing with that just fine. It's the mental and emotional anguish of not being on the ice that's so hard to take. We're going to get him to as many games as we can. As we witnessed during his last hockey season injury, making sure he's around his team and feeling like he's a still a part of the team, ought to help with his mental state and recovery.
Word to the Wise; Research Medical Resources
I've been learning a lot of lessons along the way and not just about bruises, bone injuries, growth plates and how much hockey hurts . Finding that good doctor is key. The doctor we've been going to has treated a lot of youth hockey players. I like how he takes the time to explain the injury and how the injuries relate to youth hockey players and athletes. The explanation this time around seemed to offer some comfort to my son, who I sense is feeling some doubts about himself and his abilities right now. I hope you'll never need one, but based on what I've experienced, it's a good idea to do some research on physicians who specialize in treating hockey injuries and find someone who will deliver that extra dose of comfort at a time when your hockey player will need it the most.
Real Hazards in Youth Hockey
Both of my son's injuries happened after he hit the boards, fast and hard. What happened to my son, apparently happens to a lot of youth hockey players, according to a State University of Buffalo study. Their research shows it's not all those nasty-looking body checks that are sidelining our kids. The real hazards in hockey, according to this study, are players unintentionally crashing into each other and into the boards. After following more than 2500 boys ( between the ages of 4 and 17) over two seasons, the results showed more than half of injuries were caused by unintentional collisions with the board, the ice or between players. Body checks? They accounted for just 12 percent of injuries. In a University at Buffalo press release, lead author Barry Willer was quoted as saying, " It's important to teach a child very early to learn to look forward where he wants to shoot the puck and to 'feel' the puck with his stick, instead of watching the puck. By watching where you are going, you learn to avoid collisions. " That advice may not prevent those hits from behind, but it does makes a lot of sense. As for preventing shoulder injuries, the experts advise good properly sized shoulder pads and constant reminders to players to avoid dropping their shoulders in an inevitable board collision.

Hockey safety checklist;

* Deliver a hit to the head
* Check from behind
* Drop your head near the boards
* Leave your feet to give a check

* Use your stick as a weapon

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