You might think that this is an unusual post from someone who’s been a hockey player most of his adult life but I think that’s the issue that needs discussion.
I started playing hockey when Cardiff only had one Astroturf pitch in the whole city, there were 3 or 4 clubs amounting to about 30 teams and the same amount again on the ladies side of the game. Consequently, at that time, most of the games were on grass and whilst this is kind and forgiving on the knees and ankles, if the pitch wasn’t of the right quality then the unpredictability of the ball’s path due to tufts of grass and chunks of cut up turf made for different sorts of injuries. I suffered a concussion playing on grass once as the ball kicked up into the side of my head off an uneven piece of pitch. I did the classic waking up with a crowd around you all looking at your prone body of the ground!
Within a few years the games migrated to the Astroturf pitches that were appearing all over the show, this usually meant more driving as, at first, they were great distances to travel between them and most geographic areas had only one pitch and due to team numbers there were few bookings available and pitch times varied from 9am to 7pm making the after-match socialising nigh on impossible.
The early years on Astroturf playing frantic games with basically grass hockey kit on bred a new breed of injury, the ball and stick were no longer the cause of the injuries, it was the harsh Astroturf, one fall on Astro, particularly the sand based ones which were the most common, caused rashes and burns and removed layers of skin like a cheese grater and skin takes longer than three days to repair so by the time your next training session took place you were tearing off the scabs that were still there from the weekends games. Consequently you never got better, I remember at times having so much skin missing on my thighs and knees that I would wake up in my bed on a Sunday morning with the Duvet stuck to my legs, embedding itself like gause into my new scabs.
Move on a few years and lycra clothing and under garments started to offer greater protection against the burns and the game evolved, sticks got better and the rules changed to allow greater freedom of movement which increased ball speeds and the game sped up to the point when playing at the highest level meant a 70 minute sprint with a 90 or 180 degree turn every 10 yards.
To cope with that the body protection improved, my knuckles and shins were now protected with equipment that more closely resembled armour than sports accessories.
The problem then became extended playing years, Astroturf, for all intents & purposes, is laid on concrete and concrete doesn’t give. The damage caused to my body is more like an RSI than a sports injury, my knees and ankles now give me a lot of problems especially in the cold, I can’t run for any great length of time anymore and after excersize I can’t get up in the morning and walk.
Even now, if my office is cold, my fingers hurt and feel very arthritic, it’s only going to get worse! I gave up hockey at the age of 47 having played since I was 15, 32 years of abuse to my body, self inflicted in the most part but some collision injuries, ball injuries, stick injuries and goal post injuries as well, I enjoyed pretty much all of it and many of my best friends now are from teams I have played with all over the world, and I appreciate it all, I wouldn’t change it one bit but I have some advice to current players young and old:
Think about your future a little whilst training for your present, your body will tell you when it’s getting close to the time to hang up your stick, heed the warning signs and retire when you have enough fitness left to enjoy the weekends ahead.