Can You Play Hockey After Getting a Tattoo?

It had always been your dream to get a tattoo, and you recently decided to make that dream a reality. The tattooing process wasn’t as painful as you had thought it would be, but the area where you got permanent artwork is a little tender and sore. Can you still play hockey?

It’s not wise to play hockey after getting a tattoo since the area is not yet healed. If you sweat on your tattoo or stretch it through vigorous play, you could deform the art. All the time and money you spent on the tattoo will have been for nothing!

In this article, we’ll talk further about why playing hockey immediately after getting a tattoo isn’t the best move. We’ll also tell you how long you’ll have to be out of action after getting tatted, so make sure you check it out! 

Why You Shouldn’t Play Hockey After Getting a Tattoo

You’re fresh out of the tattoo chair and you couldn’t be happier with your new permanent body art. You can’t wait until the redness and swelling go down so you can show off your tat to all your hockey teammates as well as your friends outside of hockey.

It’s one thing if you want to have your hockey buddies over for a hangout at your house and unveil your tattoo there. It’s another thing entirely to get on the ice or the field after getting tatted.

The latter is a bad idea for several reasons, some of which are quite serious. Let’s talk about this more now. 


According to job resource Fash, in 2021, the average cost of a tattoo is $50 to $250 for a small one and $150 to $450 for a medium-sized tattoo. High-end tats can cost up to $800. 

Keep in mind that these prices are per tattoo. If you got a whole sleeve done, then you have to multiply your costs by each tat you add. Very easily, your overall tally can get into the thousands of dollars.

You want to treat the affected area like gold for a while lest you flush all that money down the drain. 

That’s the first reason why we’d disincline you from playing hockey right after getting tattooed. Hockey is an intensive, full-body activity. You’re constantly raising your arms, bending your legs, and twisting your midsection. 

If you have tattoos in any of the above areas, the motion of your playing can stretch the skin. If you have no tattoos, this isn’t such a big deal. It’s also not anything concerning if your tat has fully healed.

While the tattoo is still healing though, all that flexing and motion of playing hockey could stretch the tat, leading to deformations. 

Once the tattoo becomes deformed like this, it’s not easy to fix it. Your tattoo artist would have to amend the original artwork, so whatever your initial vision of your tattoo is would be gone. 

The only other option besides adding to the artwork to cover the deformations is to undergo laser removal.

That’s expensive too, costing between $200 and $500 per tattoo as an average. Even if you wanted to pursue this option, most laser tattoo removal services won’t even touch a tattoo unless it’s been on your body for at least six weeks. 


When you play hockey, you work up a sweat. Even if your game is ice hockey, sweating is inevitable. You’re expending a lot of energy moving up and down the field, raising your stick, defending, and scoring goals. 

That perspiration gets trapped in your uniform, making it odorous. Now, what do you think happens when your new tattoo gets coated in sweat for hours?

Bacteria and microorganisms can spread, which may lead to a bacterial infection. The type of infection can range from systemic infections that cause septic shock or endocarditis to skin infections that eventually lead to necrotizing fasciitis or abscesses, according to a 2016 study in the journal Deutsches Aerzteblatt International.

Here’s an overview of those conditions if you’re not privy.

  • Septic shock: When an infection causes a severe drop in blood pressure, septic shock will follow. You might experience symptoms such as disorientation, confusion, reduced urination, breathing issues, chills, and pale skin. Septic shock is life-threatening and must be treated immediately. 
  • Endocarditis: Infections can sometimes progress to the point of infecting the inner lining of the heart as well as the valves. This is endocarditis. The symptoms can present as very mild, including fatigue, chills, and fever. If caught early enough, endocarditis can be treated with antibiotics, but it too can be deadly. 
  • Necrotizing fasciitis: Although a rare complication of an infection, necrotizing fasciitis is a complication, nevertheless. Nicknamed the flesh-eating disease, blisters develop as the tissue beneath your skin is demolished. The dead tissue usually must be removed surgically. This is another infection complication that can be fatal.  
  • Abscesses: An abscess is an area of pus within your organs or tissues caused by an infection. Antibiotics can treat many abscesses, although sometimes surgery is necessary to remove them.

These might be the most serious complications of a skin infection, but they should convince you to put down your hockey stick for a while. You should also refrain from any activities that cause you to sweat, including working out. 

Pain and Discomfort

As we said in the intro, after getting a tattoo, the area can be rather tender and even sore for a while. By playing hockey through the pain, you’re only going to worsen it. Your discomfort can be distracting, so you wouldn’t be a very useful addition to the team anyway. 

How Long Should You Wait for Your Tattoo to Heal Before Resuming Your Hockey Schedule?

Okay, okay, you’re convinced that maybe it’s not the best idea to play hockey after getting a tattoo. Exactly how long should you expect to be out of action?

While it varies depending on where you got the tattoo, the least amount of time you want to take off is a week. That said, a tattoo isn’t considered fully healed until two or three weeks, so you might want to be extra safe and allot that much time off as well.

If missing three weeks of hockey practice and games is unfathomable to you, then you can always wait to get a tattoo until the hockey off-season. This way, you can take as much tattoo recovery time as you need without having to worry about scheduled games. 

While you’re taking a break, here are some tips to encourage proper tattoo healing.

  • When you first get your tattoo, your artist will apply a sterile absorbing pad on it and then wrap the area in bandaging. Although it’s tempting to remove the bandaging early, listen to your artist’s instructions about how long to keep the bandaging on. The bandage will absorb ointment, topical anesthetic, ink, and blood, so you definitely don’t want to unwrap it too early!
  • Never clean the area in hot water when the tattoo is healing; use warm water.
  • While you can bathe after getting tattooed, avoid putting the tatted area under a source of running water such as a shower or sink faucet. Use mild antibacterial soap on the area.
  • After removing your tattoo bandage, give the tattoo time to breathe. Exposing it to the air will encourage faster healing.
  • Don’t wear tight clothing around the area with the tattoo for a couple of days.
  • If you’re in pain, a topical anesthetic will induce comfort.
  • An anti-inflammatory balm can bring down the redness and swelling around the tattooed area. 

Are Hockey Players Allowed to Have Tattoos? 

Hockey means a lot to you. Even though you don’t play on the professional level, you’re still utterly dedicated to your sport. You don’t want to do anything that could take you away from it. Before you get inked, you need to know, are hockey players allowed to have tattoos?

There’s certainly no rule against it in the NHL that we could find. Hockey players are usually covered from head to toe anyway, so even if you had a tattoo, unless it was on your face or neck, then no one would see it.

Since the NHL prohibits wearing rings, including wedding bands, what many hockey stars do is get a tattoo of a wedding band instead. Talk about a permanent commitment!

As for smaller, non-pro hockey leagues, whether tattoos are allowed will depend. Obviously, for youth sports, no player should have tattoos. A league of adults though shouldn’t be prohibited from getting tatted, as again, no one is likely to see your permanent art. Face tattoos might be banned though.

If you’re curious about your league’s rule on tattoos, we recommend asking your coach. They’ll certainly know for sure whether you can get tattooed! 

How Do You Cover a New Tattoo for Sports?

It’s better to be safe than sorry, so you waited the requisite three weeks and then hopped back onto the hockey field. You’d still prefer not to leave your tattoo exposed, at least not for a couple more weeks. How do you cover it up?

What athletes will usually do is take a hygienic bandage and then wrap it around the tattoo. Then they’ll put on their protective gear and uniform. 

Do keep in mind that you’re wearing a bandage, not a shield. If you take a direct hit to the tattooed area, damage could occur. That’s another very convincing reason to save your tattooing endeavors for the hockey off-season! 

Final Thoughts

You shouldn’t play hockey after getting a tattoo since maneuvering your body can stretch the permanent art and trapping in sweat around your tat could lead to serious infection. Schedule your tattoo session during the hockey off-season or be prepared to take at least three weeks off! 

Geoff Southworth

I am a California native and I enjoy all the outdoors has to offer. My latest adventures have been taking the family camping, hiking and surfing.

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