Accidents happen on the ice all the time that lead to injured hockey players. It’s a physically demanding sport where high impacts take a toll on a players’ bodies, even at the minor level. From collisions along the boards, getting hacked with a stick, hit by a puck or just falling, injuries on the ice are common in a contact sport.
But what about those times when your player feels a little tweak here and there for no particular reason? I’m talking about a groin pull or strain, knee pain, low back pain, and so on. These injuries seem to happen for no reason. Athletes miss a lot of important games if these seemingly minor issues aren’t dealt with properly. It’s not a matter of if but when little tweaks happen because hockey players’ bodies are always in a constant state of muscle imbalance. So let’s take care of injuries before they happen instead of dealing with the aftermath.
Here are five things your player should do to help prevent injuries and keep them in the game.
1. Increase Flexibility
Players who lack the flexibility needed to allow the muscles to stretch effectively can risk a muscle pull or strain. When muscles are tight during the high demand for them to stretch during a skating stride or slap shot, players risk injury. How can your player prevent that from happening? Have them make a daily habit of performing specific stretches to keep their body loose and ready to perform at a higher level.
2. Increase Mobility
Players who lack mobility (range of motion) limit their potential to move more efficiently on the ice. The number one limiting factor that can prevent your player from increasing explosiveness and first step quickness is poor mobility. How can your player increase their mobility? Have them perform upper and lower body mobility exercises specific to the demands of the body on the ice and watch how much better they feel.
3. Massage and A.R.T.
Our bodies were not designed to put skates on and when we do, it places a certain overuse of specific muscles while opposing stability muscles get underused. This leads to the more dominant muscles creating a major imbalance on the weak side. Players should be getting a weekly or bi-weekly massage to keep those over-active muscles loosened up. Active Release Technique (A.R.T.) is also a great method that involves trigger point or pressure point release, allowing muscles to function properly.
4. Increase Strength
Hockey players risk injury when they lack the strength needed to protect them from impacts on the ice. Muscle, tendons, and ligaments need to be strong to protect players from breaking collar bones or separating shoulders. Even minor hockey players are old enough to perform body weight exercises like pushups, pull-ups, squats, and plank exercises for core strength.
5. Correct Muscle Imbalances
This last tip involves taking care of everything above and having a routine to follow to prevent muscle imbalances that can lead to many different kinds of injuries. Every athlete in any rotational sport will develop muscle imbalances and lead to compensations on the weaker side that can prevent optimal performance and risk injury.
During the off-season players should be rejuvenating their body and taking the right steps to help prevent injuries. A daily practice of these little things will not only help prevent the risk of your player getting injured but will help them feel better and perform better on the ice. As mentioned in my last article on ‘How to Increase First Step Quickness’, make sure your player performs some kind of assessment so you can see if they have poor mobility or flexibility. And test their strength and muscle imbalances using the top three tests I use on all the players I work with. You can find a free download of the assessments I use and more at my website.