Hockey Injuries & Prevention Exercises
By: Robert Vareta
My name is Rob and I’m a Physiotherapist in Ottawa, Ontario. Part of my passion for physiotherapy came from my love of sports and playing hockey. I was granted the opportunity to complete my physiotherapy degree in Aberdeen, Scotland (shout out to RGU!) in 2014. As a proud Canadian, the first thing I did was to find somewhere to play ice hockey — which was my home away from home for two years in Scotland!
This blog post is inspired by my experiences of playing hockey all across Scotland. These are my tips on the best ways to keep yourself mobile and strong, to endure the physical demands required by the wonderful sport of ice hockey.
NON- CONTACT HOCKEY INJURIES
There are two categories that hockey injuries can be classified into: contact injury and non-contact injury.
For the purpose of this blog, we will focus on non-contact injuries, such as soft tissue overload or repetitive strain injuries. There is a long list of potential injuries that can come from playing hockey, but the most common are:
adductor strains (sometimes even MCL sprains or tears) and
low back pain.
To understand the mechanism of potential injuries and how to prevent them, we have to look at the mechanics of skating and the positions frequently adopted when on the ice.
Let’s start with skating.
When accelerating in a straight line, the natural position of your hips goes into extension, with slight external rotation to allow the skate blade to cut into the ice. If your glute or groin muscles are weak, this can lead to two common issues:
A repetitive overload injury through your hip external rotators
A pulled groin/ adductor (sometimes even MCL injuries)
Next up we have the posture held when striding along.
We all know the saying,
“Keep your head up! Wide base of support!”.
This is very important for reading and reacting to the game. However, you need to be able to have the strength and endurance to hold that posture for the duration of training and events. To maintain that position, you would have your knees slightly bent, feet wide, and hips hinged forward. If you’re keeping your head up and your shoulders upright, you’re going to be extending (over arching) through your low back. This can lead to lack of lower abdominal or core control, as well as, over-activation of the postural muscles in your low back.
HOCKEY MOBILITY & STRENGTHENING EXERCISES
It’s all well to know the risks involved with hockey… but what can you do to PREVENT these injuries from occurring?
The answer: Mobility and strength training!
When your body goes to perform a movement, it requires strength of the muscles surrounding the joint, at as much of the range of motion as possible. Muscle strength within full range of motion equates to joint stability. You demand your body to perform hundreds of repetitions of the same movement on and off the ice, so when the brain does not sense strength throughout the surrounding tissue, it will sense an unstable joint. When this occurs, your body will begin to search for stability elsewhere. This can lead to compensations that, over time, become repetitive strain injuries.
If you’re asking, “Where do I begin to mobilize and strengthen for hockey”?
I have broken down some exercises that will help get you started on injury prevention. It highlights the common areas that require adequate strength to prevent overload injuries.
Hockey Mobility Exercises
1. Hip CARs – Shoutout to Functional Anatomy Seminars (FRC!) – a great way to increase your ACTIVE range of motion – remember passive input yields passive results!
2. QL stretch – Think about that postural positioning mentioned earlier! This helps alleviate strain through the lumbar spine (low back) from that “head up” posture.
3. Couch stretch – With lumbar extension, comes anterior tilt of the pelvis (shortened hip flexors). This will allow the hip flexors and quads to stretch.
Hockey Strengthening Exercises
1. Resisted hip adduction with flexion — Very important to not forget about the groin muscles! These tend to be underdeveloped in most young hockey players!
2. Single leg RDL – Hip hinging will give your body practice for hip stability when in the single leg stance of your skating stride!
3. Dead-bug with foam roller – The foam roller will accentuate the core activation!
DISCLAIMER – These are generalized exercises based on common injuries found from repetitive strain and overuse in ice hockey. If you have an injury, experience pain with movement, or would like clarification of the exercises mentioned above, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ontario Physio Online offers comprehensive virtual assessments and treatment programs specific to your sport, lifestyle and goals. If you’re interested in prehab and rehab hockey interventions, virtual care can be done at anytime, anywhere. Book a free consultation with Rob by clicking here to get started!
For hockey associations and clubs, we offer virtual team sessions - contact us for more details!
I hope you guys enjoyed this quick blog post. It's always a good time to evaluate and optimize your body before, during and after hockey season! If you're currently seeking physiotherapy with us, we can't wait to see how you perform on the ice!
Written by: Robert Vareta, PT