Minnesota Hockey Magazine

Officially healthy

TRIA’s 5 safety tips for those who keep our game safe

Like many Minnesotans, I grew up in a hockey rink. From playing youth hockey, to managing my high school teams, to coaching, and now as a Certified Athletic Trainer on the bench, I have seen my fair share of on ice injuries. As an athletic trainer, we focus on making sure our athletes stay healthy, help to prevent and manage injuries when they occur. However, it is not just the players that get injured; hockey referees are often included in my evaluations during games.

Referees are often the forgotten athletes on the ice. They typically work multiple games in a single day, and often are working back-to-back days. Out on the ice for every minute of every game, these individuals do not get a break in the action to rest. Contusions, lacerations, broken fingers, dehydration, and leg and hip strains are some of the most common conditions I see. So, how do we keep these individuals healthy? The following tips are designed to help minimize the risk of injury during a game.

  1. Develop Cardiovascular Endurance.

Whether it’s biking, running, or Zumba class, start getting your heart, lungs, and muscles in shape at least 4 to 5 weeks before the season begins. Having good cardiovascular endurance at the beginning of the season allows you to hustle on every play and keep up with the pace of the game. It will also help you to be more focused and alert of what is happening around you and allow you to quickly recognize and get out of a dangerous position.

  1. Good Dynamic Warm Up.

Before your first game, you should take part in a 10 to 15 minute full body dynamic warm up. Dynamic exercises increase the blood flow and the temperature of muscles, which helps to reduce the risk of injury and prepares the body for more strenuous activities. An example of a pre-game warm up would include: 3 to 5 minute jog, high knees, butt kicks, high skips, lateral shuffle, grape-vine, walking T or Frankenstein’s, side to side hip swings, and forward and backward arm circles. Whatever your dynamic warm up entails, it should be done as close to game time as possible to ensure your muscles are warm and they haven’t cooled down.

  1. Proper Positioning.

Whether you are working the two or three official system, two simple body positioning rules will drastically reduce your risk of injury. First, always keep your toes pointed toward the puck. The front side of your body has a lot more padding than your side or back, so if a puck is coming your way, it is more likely to make contact with padding if you are square to it. Second, use your hands to protect yourself. If you are square to the puck and players are bumping into you, place your hands on their back. This will let the players to know you are there and you will glide backwards safely instead of getting pushed around. If your toes are not pointing towards the puck and a player falls they are more likely to land on the outside of your leg and cause you to sustain a knee injury.

  1. Communication is Key.

Many of the acute injuries I have seen could have been prevented with simple communication. Players are not always aware of where you are on the ice, so talk with them. A simple “heads up” as they make a break along the boards, or a “ref on the boards” as they wind up to clear the zone, can act as a reminder to the players of where you are. If the centers are starting to get a little wild with their sticks during a face off, remind them to keep the sticks down. Players most likely don’t always realize some of their actions are putting you at risk for injury, so talk to them.

  1. Hydration

Even though you are working on ice and not out in the sun, hydration is still important. Dehydration can cause muscle cramps, fatigue, decrease in concentration, and increase your risk of heat illness (yes this does occur in cold climates). Make sure that you are drinking water or an electrolyte drink between periods and games, as well as the night before you work and when you get done. Everyone sweats at different rates so be sure to drink before you get thirsty.

Implementing these five tips can help reduce your risk of on ice injuries. However, as we all know, accidents happen. I highly recommend that every referee pack a small first aid kit in their bag. Something as simple as having bandages, gauze, a pair of medical gloves, antibiotic ointment, and tape can go a long way until you can see a medical professional.

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About TRIA Orthopaedic Center

TRIA is a comprehensive center for orthopaedic medicine, providing incomparable clinical and surgical care, world-class research, and innovative programs. TRIA Orthopaedic Center has over 40 highly-trained physicians with a variety of sub-specialties such as sports medicine, acute injury, shoulder, hip, knee, spine, hand and wrist, foot and ankle, and fractures. TRIA’s sports medicine specialists have served as official team physicians for Minnesota’s professional sports teams for over 25 years. TRIA offers walk-in care through the Acute Injury Clinic, 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. seven days a week, no appointment needed. From diagnosis to treatment, to rehabilitation and even surgery, it is all at one convenient location at I-494 and France Avenue in Bloomington, Minnesota. For more information, visit tria.com.