For some athletes in the State of Hockey, ice time never stops. Given how competitive Minnesota hockey is, there is an emphasis on spending as much time as you can work on your skills and skating. But as this trend toward specializing in one sport year-round increases, so does the risk of injury.

As more kids are choosing to play hockey year-round, TRIA athletic trainers shared a few things to consider before lacing up your skates during the off-season.

There are many advantages to being a multi-sport athlete

I don’t recommend focusing on one sport year-round. I think athletes gain a lot either by resting in the off-season or playing other sports. If you look at professional athletes, many of them played multiple sports growing up. This helped their overall athleticism as they carried skills over from one sport to the next. For example, dribbling a basketball can help eye-hand coordination, which can help improve stick-handling skills.

Take care of your body

For any athlete who is passionate about a particular sport or pursuing multiple sports, there has to be some emphasis on taking care of your body. Here are a few tips for hockey players to avoid injuries:

  • Warm up properly. Don’t just lace up your skates and start playing.
  • Take time to cool down after playing to help your body recover and reduce soreness.
  • Work on building your overall strength, agility and maintaining the flexibility of your hips.
  • Make an appointment for a sports physical, which screens for medical conditions that might make participating in hockey unsafe. Learn more about sports physicals.

More is not always better

Playing hockey year-round can increase your risk of an overuse injury, particularly in the wrist and lower back. If an athlete isn’t strong through their trunk and hips, the consistent rotation forces through the spine can lead to lower back stress fractures. We are seeing more and more of these stress fractures in youth hockey players. The other common overuse injury is extensor carpi ulnaris (ECU) tendinitis. The ECU tendon takes a lot of stress with repeated stick handling and shooting. Just like the spine, playing year round can increase your risk of this injury.

Regardless if you are a multi-sport athlete or you play the same sport year-round, if you have an injury or something that hurts for more than seven to ten days, and you are not seeing it get better over that period of time, it is time to get it looked at by a medical professional.

TRIA’s Orthopedic Urgent Care is open seven days a week, no appointment needed, with locations in Bloomington, Maple Grove and Woodbury.