You’re near the end of your shift, and you’re on a breakaway. Three other players are gunning for you, and they mean to hit, and hit hard. Your quads are burning with fatigue, but you’re in a great position to score….

Your team has had a tourney scheduled for months. At the last minute, nearly half of your players decide to bail. Your attendance is locked in, and there is no way to recover fees if the rest of the team pulls out. So you and five other players honor your commitment and go. You play competitive teams whose benches are full, and you have only one extra player on yours. Shifts are much longer than usual, and your lungs feel like they will explode….

These are two examples of when it is fair game to dig deep to access stamina and push through the pain of fatigue. Muscle and lung exhaustion are normal when game play conditions are demanding.

However, there are times when it is right and necessary to pull yourself out of competition if pain results from a sudden or escalating injury. Beware of these signs of trouble:

  • The sound or sensation of crunching, grinding, snapping or popping, which could indicate joint, ligament or tendon damage
  • Sharp, sudden pain, numbness and/or weakness that affects your stride, balance or grip, which could be a warning of a muscle, ligament or tendon pull/tear
  • Chest pain, persistent breathlessness and/or profuse sweating, which could be symptoms of cardiac distress
  • Head pain, disorientation and/or impaired vision, which could signal a concussion
  • Nausea and vomiting, which could result in weakness and dehydration
  • Swelling and tenderness of a muscle or joint, which could indicate a tear, fluid build-up or trauma

We all appreciate an athlete who harnesses purposeful pain, such as muscle burn from a hard push or general fatigue from challenging conditions. However no serious or repeat injury is worth ignoring, especially when continued play could make it worse and as a result, compromise you or others on the ice. Know your body. Heed signs of serious trouble. Sit and seek support from your coach and/or trainer. One essential ingredient to solid performance is knowing when it’s OK to persevere, and when it’s smart to stop.