Hockey players use their wrists extensively in hitting the puck with their sticks. A wrist shot can reach speeds of up to 80 miles per hour, according to the Exploratorium website. The energy in a wrist shot is generated when a player presses down on the hockey stick and then suddenly releases it with a flick of the wrists. This sort of force, which is applied repeatedly in a hockey game as well as in practice, can cause wrist pain.
Wrist pain can be a symptom of overuse, arthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome, cysts, tendonitis, a sprain or a fracture. The last two are more likely to be the result of a sudden injury, and the cause is clear. Other sources of wrist pain may be more difficult to diagnose. Hockey players can exacerbate a condition such as a painful wrist because they have a tendency to “play through the pain,” according to the Spring 2004 issue of “The Hockey Edge Newsletter.”
Overuse and Osteoarthritis
Overuse and repetitive stress, sometimes also called repetitive motion injury, are common reasons for wrist pain in hockey. Any motion of the hockey stick uses the arms and wrists. The repeated motion causes inflammation around the joints or even small stress fractures. Osteoarthritis can occur in joints that have been injured from a fall or repetitive motion; it is caused by wear and tear on the cartilage on the bone ends. Osteoarthritis can be another source of wrist pain in hockey.
Other Sources of Wrist Pain
Carpal tunnel syndrome is caused by pressure on the median nerve, which runs through a passageway on the side of the wrist called the carpal tunnel. Ganglion cysts are soft-tissue cysts that commonly occur on the top of the wrist. Keinbock’s disease is the result of a compromised blood supply to one of the small bones in the wrist. Although none of these conditions is caused by playing hockey, a hockey player who has them will experience pain during and after play because wrist motion makes the pain worse.
The tendons of the wrist can be subjected to significant stress. Tendonitis occurs because the collagen fibers in the tendons have been stressed beyond their capacity to heal. The tendons become inflamed and painful. If too little time is allowed for healing, inflammation continues, and tendons begin to adhere to other surfaces and then to degenerate.
Considerations and Warnings
"The Hockey Edge Newsletter” notes that there is a difference between injury pain and the kind of soreness or performance pain that occurs after a heavy practice or game. Injury pain is more likely to last for a period of time, it may include swelling, and it is less responsive to rest or other treatments. If you have wrist pain that does not go away within two days after a hockey game or an intense practice session, consult a health-care professional.