They may play the sport in a skirt, but that doesn’t diminish the intensity and toughness required to make it on the field. Although field hockey is considered a “non-contact” sport, the sticks, balls, and bodies involved can still lead to number of acute injuries. Primarily a female sport in the U.S. (the men’s national team did not even attend the Olympic qualifier games), these athletes go through tough training regimes to prepare for top international competition.
Field hockey players primarily suffer from acute injuries, which are trauma-type injuries that result from a one-time event. (For example, being hit with a ball – those things are hard!) Chronic injuries, though less common, may crop up in the lower back or lower extremities.
Our ATI Injury Analyst, Seth Eisenberg, a physical therapist at our Doylestown, PA, clinic, gives us some insight on this sport.
“It’s a rough sport,” Seth says. “I’ve seen a lot of contusions and bruises from that ball, and unfortunately, there’s no real way to prevent those in-play injuries.”
What injuries and treatments are most common…
- Impact injuries: Because there are often quick changes in pace and movement, impact injuries, such as ACL or meniscus tears, ankle sprains, or lower extremity muscle strains, are common.
- Treatment: Seth says the treatment varies upon the severity of the injury itself. While some impact injuries may just require some R.I.C.E. (rest, ice, compression, elevation), others may require surgery and/or rehabilitation therapy.
- Contusions and bruises:Due to the hardness of the ball (and sticks!), players often experience contusions and bruises, including broken noses.
- Treatment: Our Olympic Injury Analyst says there’s no real way to prevent these bumps and bruises. Seth says physical therapists can use extremely gentle muscular stretching to help treat these injuries.
- Concussions: Since field hockey players are constantly looking down at the ball, the risk of being hit in the head is high. These injuries often lead to concussions and players must wait until they pass their IMPACT testing, a type of neuro-cognitive test, before returning to play, which could take days, weeks, or even months.
- Treatment: Seth says although there is no way to prevent a concussion, it’s very important to have a staged progression back to play to ensure that the athlete is completely ready for the field. He says athletes must be able to asymptomatically walk before jogging, asymptomatically jog before running, and eventually work up through performing sprints and drills before returning to the field.
Consider physical therapy as a first course of action, even if it’s only a screening, which are complimentary at all ATI locations. Recent research suggest that people who underwent physical therapy enjoyed faster recovery and less pain than those who chose alternative routes such as surgery and opioids. Give PT a try!