During the regular season, there are unfortunately going to be some injuries that occur. When this does happen, is your trainer able to deal with the situation? Most of the trainers in the G.T.H.L. are parents that have taken the Hockey Trainers Certification program. It consists of 3 levels, and only the first is necessary for this particular league. The first level involves basic CPR and first aid. How to treat specific hockey injuries, such as a knee or separated shoulder, is not covered. These may not appear serious to some, but if, for example, an athlete was to fracture a hip and tear their femoral artery (major artery for the legs), the question becomes whether or not the trainer is qualified to react quick enough to save that athlete’s life?
Essentially, a trainer must be able to access and determine the seriousness of an injury. It can be quite frightening to an athlete to be told that they may have a serious injury like a broken bone in their neck or back. Therefore, a false diagnosis is best prevented. A qualified trainer can prevent an unnecessary ambulance ride where the athlete is taped down for hours on a flat, hard spinal board - an extremely scary and uncomfortable ordeal. The old proverb of ‘better safe than sorry’ always holds true but a qualified trainer should possess the confidence and knowledge to make a quick informed decision. Spine related injuries are regrettably a part of hockey. There are many factors that a trainer must consider when presented with such a situation. There are some indications that can differentiate symptoms between spinal and other conditions, which do not require emergency attention. Have you ever heard of a burner or stinger? This condition occurs when the athlete forcefully has their neck forced back and to the side. It sends a burning or stinging sensation down one arm, right to the fingertips. A spinal fracture can, however, have the exact same symptoms, so how do you determine the difference? A qualified trainer is able to differentiate the symptoms.
1. The mechanism of injury will be significantly different Spinal – The neck is usually in slight flexion and forced downwards (i.e. Head first into boards) Burner – The neck is forced back and to the side (i.e. Strong body check high near the collarbone) 2. A spinal will usually give a numbness or tingling sensation down both, or maybe just one arm. 3. The burning or stinging will usually subside after a few minutes An athlete with a suspected spinal injury needs professional medical care. If there is ever any doubt, an ambulance should be called. Three questions trainers should ask themselves to determine whether or not an ambulance should be called are: 1. Did I see the mechanism of injury (head first into boards, etc.)? 2. Do they have any positive neurological signs and symptoms (spinal nerve tests called dermatomes and myotomes)? 3. Do they have central neck or low back pain (pain over the middle of the spine)?
If their pain is off to one side, it could just be some spasm in the muscles. If an athlete were to have a fracture in their neck, they would be extremely tender directly over the spinous processes (bumps of spine).
So, we have determined that a qualified trainer is the best to respond to complicated injuries and emergency situations. But what makes a trainer qualified? Most likely those that call themselves a trainer on your hockey team have only taken a few first aid courses. A qualified professional trainer is called a Certified Athletic Therapist in Canada and an Athletic Trainer in the U.S. They are required to take a three to four year diploma program from an accredited University or College. After graduation a national written and practical examination is done with the national association (CATA - Canada, NATA - US). Examples of Certified Athletic Therapists working in hockey are Chris Broadhurst, from the Toronto Maple Leafs, as well as, the author, who works with various Greater Toronto hockey teams. If you are concerned about who is watching over your son or daughter, ask the trainer about their qualifications.