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UPMC Winter Classic Fan Tips

Keeping warm during the Winter Classic – Okay, so it’s not as cold as we thought or hoped it would be, but it is still cold out there. For Penguins fans who are used to taking their coats off for the game, UPMC Sports Medicine physician Dr. Jeane Doperak offers these tips:  Dress in layers, with the layer next to your skin being non-sweat-absorbing and the outermost layer being water resistant.  As far as extremities go, dress for warmth and comfort rather than for looks.  Forget the high-heeled fashion boots and wear warm, flat boots with an extra pair of water-resistant socks.  Hats and gloves are a must even if it’s not as cold as it has been in Pittsburgh.  Drinking too much alcohol may make you feel warmer in the moment, but it will also inhibit your ability to judge how cold it is and how to stay safe.  
Preventing hearing damage -- No matter where you watch the game, the piercing screams of Penguins fans can be harmful to your ears. “Any sound louder than 90 decibels – about the noise level of a loud party – can cause hearing damage after prolonged exposure,” says UPMC Eye and Ear Institute audiologist Dr. Catherine Palmer. “The echoes of thousands of screaming fans at a stadium can be much louder, and so can sound levels at most bars, where loud music and televisions cause patrons to speak even louder, especially if those patrons are Penguins fans!”  Dr. Palmer recommends wearing hearing protection in loud settings. “Earplugs could make the game more enjoyable and safer for many fans, and there are certain types of earplugs that provide a quieter level of sound without distorting it,” she adds.
Saving your voice -- The same loud cheering that hurts others’ ears also can wreak havoc on your voice, according to Dr. Jackie Gartner-Schmidt, associate director of the UPMC Voice Center.  “Yelling and screaming during the game can cause temporary and perhaps permanent changes to your vocal cords,” she says. “Also, speaking loudly in an effort to be heard over background noise can be just as harmful, and you often don’t realize you’re doing it.”  Laryngitis and hoarseness aren’t the only consequences of abusing your voice. High-pitched screaming or yelling can cause a bleed of the vocal cords, or you could pull one of the muscles that you use to speak – both of which could require medical treatment. 
To prevent vocal cord damage, Dr. Gartner-Schmidt offers this advice:
  • Rest your voice as much as possible: between plays, during the commercials and at half-time.
  • Chew gum – the constant swallowing helps keep your throat moist.
  • Take extra care if you’re watching the game at a bar. Alcohol could help you become dehydrated, as well as more likely to yell, scream or speak loudly. Drink plenty of water between alcoholic beverages.
  • In addition to protecting your hearing, ear plugs also will help you monitor how loudly you are speaking in a noisy environment.
  • If you can’t help but cheer, try not to strain your voice. Make a “whoa” sound, and use lots of breath support. If you do this correctly, your lips should tickle when you say the “w” sound. Don’t speak or yell from your throat.
  • Never scream. The only time you should scream is if you’re in serious danger.  Or if the Penguins score the winning goal as time runs out!
NHL Knows Concussions – Concussions have been getting a lot of attention in football.  But, they often occur in hockey players as well.  Fortunately, we’ve learned more about managing concussions in the last 10 years than we ever knew, and with that knowledge, management at all levels is getting better and better.  “The NHL itself for decades has played a big part in ensuring its players get the most advanced clinical care when it comes to head injuries,” says UPMC Sports Medicine Concussion Program Director and long-time NHL consultant Dr. Mark Lovell.  “What the NHL has done for its own players has trickled down to benefit the youth leagues around the world.”  Dr. Lovell developed the pre- and post-concussion neurocognitive testing program used by the NHL and adopted by thousands of youth leagues and teams around the world in all sports. 
What YOU need to know about concussions – You’re a parent of a young ice hockey player and with all this frightening talk about concussions in football, what do YOU need to know if you think your youngster has had a concussion? UPMC Sports Medicine Concussion Program Director Dr. Mark Lovell says the most important thing is “When in doubt, sit them out.”   Even the most seemingly mild blows to the head or upper body can cause major long-term problems if not managed properly.  He says before returning to plan, an athlete should be symptom-free both at rest and during exertion, and the athlete’s neurocognitive function should be the same as it was before the suspected concussion.  Symptom-free means no headaches, dizziness, fogginess, no “just-not-feeling-right”, no problems with vision, light or hearing sensitivity, etc. – which are the most common concussion symptoms.   Pre- and post-injury neurocognitive testing is available at many sports medicine clinics, including the UPMC Center for Sports.  Dr. Lovell is the developer of the first and most widely used test, called ImPACT,  (Immediate Post-Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing), also used by the Penguins and the NHL. 
Nutrition guidelines for hockey players of all levels
- Being equipped for the game or practice is more than putting on your pads and lacing up your skates. "What is IN your body is as important as what is ON your body," says UPMC Sports Medicine nutritionist Leslie Bonci. So, before you head to the rink, Bonci says, make sure you have at least 10-20 ounces of water or sports drink and something small to eat, such as a granola bar, or mini bagel with peanut butter, or a small bowl of cereal.  When you are on the ice, stop for fluid breaks and for games, you'll need more than water alone, so consider a sports drink and/or gels, a honey packet, or n a 1 ounce box of raisins or trail mix.  And as soon as you come off the ice, before you shower and change, replace what your body has lost.  Have a 12 ounce bottle of low-fat chocolate milk, or 1/2 of a peanut butter/jelly sandwich with a piece of fruit. Don't wait until you get home or go to a restaurant to eat something. The sooner you eat, the quicker you will recover so that you can get back on the ice the next day. To be strong, fast and have lots of energy, equip your body inside and out, and make food and fluid a part of your warm-up and cool down.

Fitness and conditioning needs for hockey players of all levels - Ice hockey is one of the most physically demanding sports.  According UPMC Sports Medicine physician Dr. Jeanne Doperak, players use all muscle groups and success requires not only good skating skills but a foundation of strength, flexibility, balance and aerobic conditioning.  Injuries, which most commonly occur above the waist, parallel player fatigue.  In other words, Dr. Doperak says, the more time on the ice and the later the game period, the greater the rate and risk of injury.  "For ice hockey, a good conditioning program can decrease fatigue and keep players of all ages healthy and skating rather than sitting." 

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