In an era when many children play little but video games, experts are glad to see street hockey is on a roll.
Boys and girls across the country ages 6 and up get regular workouts on organized teams. Others join informal matches on driveways and playgrounds from Boston to Big Sur. What attracts a lot of youngsters is that it's less expensive than regular hockey, and that kids can play it anywhere they can find the space.
In-line hockey is usually safer than the hockey played on ice. There is nobody body-checking or skates with sharp blades, and a water-filled ball often replaces the hard rubber puck. But authorities on the sport emphasize that good protective gear and safe playing surfaces are critical.
Here are some ways to be safe while playing hockey:
Wear shoulder pads, hockey-style shin guards, elbow pads, hip pads, groin protectors, and gloves. The gloves should be long enough to go well up the forearm, overlapping the elbow pads. Padded hockey pants can also help reduce injuries.
Wear a hockey-style helmet with a full-face mask and mouth guard correctly strapped to avoid concussions and face injuries. Seek equipment approved by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.
If eyeglasses must be worn by a player, they should be of approved construction with nonshattering glass (safety glass). Contact lenses also can be worn.
Drink plenty of water before and during play. A quart an hour isn't too much.
Keep your head up in a collision. Players who duck their heads in collisions are more likely to suffer possible paralyzing spinal cord injuries than those who keep their necks straight.
Play on a smooth, flat, clean surface like a fenced parking lot or basketball court. Never play in an alley or street. Place cushions against posts, curbs, and other possible dangers.