Hockey is a rough, physical sport filled with hard hits and aggressive play. No matter what level you play at, maintaining your health and safety must be a top priority. Wearing the proper protective hockey gear is essential in preventing or lessening the degree of injury suffered by hockey players.
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The majority of hockey injuries occur to the head or face. According to the Hughston Clinic, the risk of injuries such as cuts to the head and concussions is reduced when players wear helmets. When selecting a helmet, make sure it fits snugly and allows little vertical or horizontal movement. Check the snaps on the helmet to make sure they're working and be sure to wear the chin guard attached to the helmet strap. Use only helmets approved by the Hockey Equipment Certification Council or the Canadian Amateur Hockey Association.
Face masks protect the eyes and face from injury due to high sticks and flying pucks. The three types of face protectors include a partial shield, a full wire mask and a combination of both. Wire masks protect the whole face, while a shield mask covers the eyes and a small area of the upper part of the face but leaves the lower half of the face unprotected. The combination mask has a shield over the eyes and wire covering the lower part of the face.
Shoulder, Arm and Chest Protection
Hockey players wear shoulder pads and a chest protector to reduce the risk of injury to their collarbone, shoulders and chest. The pads come in a variety of styles and sizes. Defensive players tend to prefer more padding to protect them from high sticks, pucks and excessive physical contact. Offensive players use lighter pads, giving up protection to allow for flexibility and comfort. Elbow pads cover the upper arm and a portion of the lower arm and protect the arms from injury due to hits, sticks and pucks. Slash guards are used to protect the forearm area between the end of the elbow pad and the cuff of the glove.
Hockey Pants and Shin Guards
Hockey pants are a helpful piece of hockey gear that helps protect the thighs, hips and back of the player. Most hockey pants have padding sewn into the pants. The padding is located in the thigh, tailbone and hip area. Often a plastic shield is built into the waist to provide extra protection for the kidneys and the sternum. Shin guards are considered mandatory in most hockey leagues and prevent serious injuries to the knee and lower leg; the guards should fit well and extend from the top of the skate to the middle of the knee.
Hockey players wear a mouth guard to protect their mouth and teeth and an athletic cup to protect their groin. Gloves keep the hands and wrists safe from slashes from the opposing players' sticks. Skates are necessary to move about on the ice and should fit well to provide proper ankle support. The hockey stick allows players to maneuver the puck around on the ice. Sticks are made from wood, carbon graphite or aluminum and must be fitted according to the size of each individual player.