Playing Defense Against Respiratory Viruses

Q: Dr. Hockey, my son has a couple of important hockey tournaments coming up next month. I am nervous about all these respiratory viruses going around and want to know how I can make sure he stays healthy. I don’t want flu season messing with his hockey season!

 – Aitanna (Brooklyn, N.Y.)

A: Aitanna, there is nothing like the excitement of hockey tournaments! Bring on the team dinners, endless hours of knee hockey, running around hotel lobbies and swimming in the pool! These events provide plenty of togetherness and, therefore, lots of opportunities for respiratory viruses to spread quickly. 


How Does The Flu Spread?

The influenza virus, or “flu”, is spread from person to person by respiratory droplets. When an infected person coughs, sneezes, or even talks, droplets that contain the virus are released into the air. If another person then inhales these virus-containing droplets while breathing, they are likely to become infected with influenza. The flu can also be transmitted by contact with contaminated surfaces. For example, if a person touches an object, such as a water bottle or a hockey stick covered with virus-containing respiratory droplets, they can become infected by just touching their eyes, nose, or mouth with their hands. 

Note From Dr. Hockey: For this month’s issue, we have a special contributor: Dr. Michael J. Stuart, chief medical officer for USA Hockey and the head of the USA Hockey Safety and Protective Equipment Committee. Here are some helpful tips from Dr. Stuart that will help you play good defense and keep your player out of the doctor’s office and on the ice! 

Get Vaccinated!

The single best way to reduce the risk of infection and minimize the severity of illness is to get the flu vaccine! Flu viruses change from season to season, so the vaccine is directed towards the influenza subtypes that research suggests will be the most prevalent. It takes up to two weeks after vaccination to be protected from the flu. Visit the following link for more information on vaccines:

Stay At Home:

If you become sick, do NOT go to the rink! Be kind and do not share your respiratory infection with others, including your teammates and your coaches. If you are healthy, avoid close contact with people who are sick. 

Wash Your Hands!

Players and everyone involved at the rink should wash their hands with soap and warm water before and immediately after hitting the ice. An alcohol-based sanitizer may be the more practical option in a crowded locker room. Players should shower as soon as possible after all practices and games. This can be done at the rink, but most youth players shower when they get home.

Sharing Is Not Caring:

Do not share water bottles, towels or equipment. Clearly label the items that belong to you. This minimizes exposure to infection. 

Cover Your Mouth:

Cough or sneeze into a tissue or into the bend of your elbow and wash/sanitize your hands immediately. Do not cover your cough or sneeze with your hand!



Who is your favorite 2023/2024 NHL Rookie?
Connor Bedard
Matthew Knies
Brock Faber
Logan Stankoven
Logan Cooley
Total votes: 3