The excitement of the 2009 Stanley Cup Playoffs may inspire young players and weekend warriors to hit the ice, but, traveling up to 30 miles an hour on a quarter-inch blade of steel and stopping instantly will put anyone at risk for injury, says the American Physical Therapy Association, Alexandria, Va.

Mark Mortland, PT, ATC, team PT for the Pittsburgh Penguins, says people can take special precautions to help avoid the multiple injuries that can occur in this high-speed, high-impact sport. APTA and Mortland recommend an exercise regimen that includes a dynamic warmup, cool down, and overall core strengthening to help prevent injuries that keep participants off the ice, as follows:

Dynamic warmup: Warming up should include a combination of dry floor and ice exercises. On the dry floor, running in place, lunges, high knee exercises (high, fast marching movements), and static stretching (stretching while standing in place) can be used to prepare for the game. On the ice, players should combine warmup laps and sprints.

Post-game/post-practice cool down: It is important to stretch the muscles while they are still warm. Focus on static stretches (stretching while standing in place) of large muscle groups such as the hamstrings, quadriceps, gluteus, and hips.

Overall core strength: Developing strong abdominal muscles (crunches, situps, and other core exercises) can help to avoid low back pain, a common injury often a result of the crouched positions of the players. Core strength also helps players better handle the crushing impacts one can endure during an enthusiastic game of hockey.

[Source: An article posted on the American Physical Therapy Association Web site]