Injury Prevention For Hockey Players – Lina Englund, Physiotherapist

Needless to say, hockey is a dangerous sport with injuries lined up down the road for most players. It is a sport with high speed, high impact and high training dose. It is also popular among (not always fit for the game) weekend warriors. Not to mention the 9 inch vulcanized rubber object doing all it can to hit you in the face at 160 km/hour.

Luckily, there are things you can do to stay on the ice.

Prepare Accordingly

Make sure that you are fit to play. Don’t jump on the ice thinking that old merits will keep you safe. Hockey requires cardiovascular and muscular strength, as well as flexibility and a focused mind.

Warm-Up

As in all sports, a proper warm-up is vital. To learn more about the mechanisms behind a warm-up, check out my warm-up post.  In short, it prepares your body mentally and physically for action by increased circulation, heart rate and temperature. Your goal is to get your body working optimally for the task ahead.

What is is: A minimum of 5 min of cardio, such as jogging, skipping, brisk walking followed by a minimum of 5 min of dynamic stretching. Dynamic stretching is pretty far from regular, static stretching. Examples are deep squats, running with high knees and dynamic runner lunges.

Hockey players need to pay specific attention to hamstrings and inner thighs, since they are the muscle groups most prone to non-collision injuries.

Protection

Most hockey players know to gear up, but I want to point out the importance of wearing a well-fitted helmet and padding. If you feel like keeping your jaw and nose intact, I’d recommend playing with a full face protector.

Play By The Rules

It is shown that approximately one third of hockey injuries are related to incidents outside of the rules. Many urge that fighting and foul play is a “part of the game”, but it is also a sure way to unnecessary injury.

Rest

Our bodies recharge while resting. Overtraining leads to fatigue and poor technique, which can easily lead to overuse injuries. The type of rest you need is related to your fitness level. For some, a 5 km jog is resting, while it is a full on workout for others. If you are someone who has a hard time resting, at least vary your activities so that a few days are devoted to flexibility training or lighter cardio activity. However, the need for rest should not be misunderstood. Doing nothing between your 1-2 games per week is far from a solid strategy.

Hydration

Make sure that you keep properly hydrated. Dehydration leads to decreased blood flow to the muscles, and therefore increased injury risk.

Take home message: Prep, play by the rules, rest and hydrate!

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