What strategies are effective for career longevity in contact sports like football or hockey?

Contact sports are a beloved pastime for many, fostering a sense of unity and camaraderie among team players. However, they are not without their risks. Concussions and other physical injuries are common, particularly in high-contact games like football and hockey. These injuries can be career-ending for athletes if not properly managed. This article will delve into the various strategies that players can use to increase their career longevity in these sports.

Understanding The Risks

Before we can discuss strategies for increasing career longevity, it’s essential to understand the risks involved in contact sports. The main risk for athletes playing football or hockey is a concussion, a type of traumatic brain injury caused by a blow to the head or body that causes the brain to move rapidly back and forth.

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These sports also carry a high risk for neck injuries due to the impact and physical nature of the games. Concussions and neck injuries can have long-term effects on your health, not to mention your ability to continue playing the sport. In fact, a study on Pubmed, a free search engine primarily accessing the MEDLINE database of references and abstracts on life sciences and biomedical topics, showed that the average career length for NFL players is about 3.3. years. This figure is significantly impacted by the risk of injury in the sport.

Understanding these risks is the first step in mitigating them and extending the careers of players in contact sports.

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Incorporating Protective Measures

Once you understand the risks, the next step is to incorporate protective measures into your training and playing. The importance of wearing the correct protective gear cannot be overstated. Helmets, mouthguards, and neck guards can significantly reduce the risk of concussions and neck injuries.

Furthermore, proper tackling and checking techniques can also help reduce the risk of injury. This is where the role of the coach becomes crucial. Coaches should regularly revise and edit the team’s training regimen to ensure that players are using the correct techniques.

Additionally, maintaining a strong physical condition can help protect against injuries. Regular strength and conditioning exercises, particularly for the neck and core, can help players withstand the physical demands of the sport.

Staying Updated on Latest Research

As athletes, it’s essential to stay updated on the latest research in sports medicine. New findings are continually being published that can affect the way you play and train for your sport.

For example, a recent study published on Pubmed found that athletes who sustain a concussion are at a higher risk for sustaining a lower extremity musculoskeletal injury even after they return to play. Therefore, it’s crucial for athletes and coaches to be aware of this research and incorporate the appropriate precautions and training modifications.

Prioritizing Rest and Recovery

While the culture of ‘pushing through the pain’ is often celebrated in sports, it’s critical to prioritize rest and recovery to extend the longevity of an athletic career. This includes adequate sleep, proper nutrition, and regular check-ups with healthcare professionals.

In the event of an injury, it’s essential to take the time to fully recover before returning to play. Prematurely returning to the game not only increases the risk of re-injury but also may lead to long-term health complications. Therefore, it’s critical to listen to your body and not rush the recovery process.

Advocating for Safer Sports Policies

Finally, players, coaches, and parents can advocate for safer sports policies. This could mean pushing for stricter rules around head impacts in youth sports or advocating for better concussion protocols in professional leagues.

While some might argue that these changes could alter the nature of the games, it’s critical to prioritize player safety. After all, without healthy athletes, there wouldn’t be any sports to watch or play.

In conclusion, extending career longevity in contact sports is a multifaceted process that involves understanding the risks, incorporating protective measures, staying updated on research, prioritizing rest and recovery, and advocating for safer sports policies. By implementing these strategies, players can enjoy longer, healthier careers in the sports they love.

Improving Neck Strength and Other Specific Physical Conditionings

One of the most crucial strategies to prolong a career in high-contact sports like football and ice hockey is to focus on improving neck strength and other specific physical conditionings. By increasing neck strength, players can better withstand the impacts that often cause concussions and neck injuries.

A study published on PubMed CrossRef highlighted the importance of neck strength in reducing the risk of concussion among high school football players. The study found that players with stronger necks were less likely to suffer from a concussion as compared to those with weaker necks. Therefore, incorporating neck strengthening exercises into regular training routines is highly advisable.

In addition to neck strength, maintaining overall physical conditioning is equally important. Regular strength and cardiovascular exercises can help athletes better handle the physical demands and fast-paced nature of contact sports. Regular training can also promote better agility and coordination, thus reducing the risk of injuries caused by falls or awkward movements.

Moreover, it’s important to remember that the physical conditioning needs of athletes may vary depending on their specific roles within the team. For example, a goaltender in hockey might require more flexible hip and knee joints for quick lateral movements, while a football lineman might need more upper body strength for blocking opponents. Hence, tailor-made physical conditioning programs can be highly beneficial.

Enhancing Knowledge and Awareness of Risk Factors

Another effective strategy for career longevity in contact sports is enhancing knowledge and awareness of risk factors. An athlete’s ability to recognize and understand the risks associated with their sport can greatly contribute to their longevity.

A significant resource for this is Google Scholar, a freely accessible web search engine that indexes the full text or metadata of scholarly literature across an array of publishing formats and disciplines. Another robust resource is CrossRef, an official DOI (Digital Object Identifier) registration agency of the International DOI Foundation, that enables search across multiple databases.

These platforms provide access to numerous studies, including those related to sports concussion, injury prevention, and strategies for career longevity in contact sports. For instance, a study accessible through CrossRef Google highlights the risk factors for sports concussions among elite athletes in the United States. By understanding these factors, athletes can be more cautious and take necessary preventative measures.

Inclusion criteria in these studies often consider factors like the type of sport, level of play (from high school to professional), age, sex, and geographic location, like North America, where American Football and Ice Hockey are popular. Studies included on these platforms can provide a wealth of information for athletes and coaches alike, helping them make informed decisions for safe practice and play.


Achieving career longevity in contact sports like football and ice hockey is a complex yet feasible task. It necessitates understanding the risks involved and the crucial role of protective measures. Improving neck strength and maintaining a well-rounded physical condition should be a mainstay in training routines.

Equally essential is keeping oneself updated with the latest research provided by reliable platforms like Google Scholar, PubMed CrossRef, and CrossRef Google. Understanding and recognizing risk factors can further aid in injury prevention. Lastly, the importance of rest, recovery, and advocacy for safer sports policies cannot be overstated.

By integrating these strategies and maintaining a balanced approach between the love for the sport and health precautions, players can hope to enjoy longer and healthier careers in the contact sports they are passionate about.