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Hockey School
the professor Injuries

How common are they?:
More times than not, there are fewer injuries than meet the eye. Most of the hard hits against the boards and the blocked shots in front of the net that seem gruesome don’t make full impact because of the equipment. Protection is as light and supportive as ever. The back of the legs and the face are the only parts of the body left open.

[Times photo: Dirk Shadd]
Lightning defenseman Pavel Kubina is treated after taking a high stick against the Islanders in Game 1 of the first round.
What is commonplace:
In the NHL, facial injuries are plentiful. Some players wear a half-shield visor, but they protect only from the nose up. As a result, players are vulnerable to high sticks and loose pucks. In college, high school and youth hockey, players must wear a full visor or cage. Head injuries are on the rise as well. This is because today’s players are in better physical condition and hit harder. When a skater, with his head down, is caught in open ice, he is prone to a head injury if he falls backward to the ice.

What is not commonplace:
The ACL tears and sprains prevalent in the NFL are less so in the NHL. Some players fall victim to them – former All-Star Pavel Bure has not played since 2002-03 because of knee problems – but not nearly as many as other sports. The reason? Most knee problems arise when a player cuts on the turf or changes direction quickly. The foot plants. Sometimes the knee twists. On the ice, there is no planting. The feet are locked in the skate, and the knee usually goes where the foot takes it. Of course, a player can land on a knee awkwardly or bang into another player in knee-to-knee fashion, so they are not immune to these injuries.

- Compiled by Tim Sullivan

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