Accidents happen on the ice all the time that lead to players getting injured, and it comes with demand of the sport where high impacts take a toll on a player’s body, even at the minor level. From collisions along the boards, getting hacked with a stick, hit by a puck or just falling on the ice, players are likely to get hurt. But what about those times when a player feels a little tweak here and there? I’m talking about a groin pull or strain, or knee pain, low back pain, or something similar that seems to happen for no reason. These things can put players out and make them miss a lot of important games if not taken care of. It’s not a matter of if but when little tweaks happen because hockey players’ bodies are in a constant state of muscle imbalances.
Let’s look at what players can do to help prevent those unfortunate nagging injuries no matter how small they may seem. Here are five steps can take to stay in the game:
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 a player prevent that from happening? They need to make it a daily habit to perform specific stretches to keep their body loose and ready to perform at a higher level.
Increase Mobility. Players who lack mobility (range of motion) limit their potential to move more efficiently on the ice. Probably the number one limiting factor that can prevent a player from increasing explosiveness and first step quickness is poor mobility. How can players increase their mobility? They need to perform upper and lower body mobility exercises specific to the demands of the body on the ice and will soon see how much better they are moving.
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 muscle creating a major imbalance on the weak side. Players should be getting a weekly or bi-weekly massage to keep those overactive 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.
Increase Strength. When players lack the strength needed to protect them from impacts on the ice, they risk getting injured. Muscle, tendons, and ligaments need to be strong to protect players from breaking collar bones or separating shoulders. Most minor hockey players are old enough to perform body weight exercises like pushups, pullups, squats, and plank exercises for core strength that can help protect them from injuries.
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 that 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 them from injuries. A daily practice of the above-mentioned techniques will not only help prevent the risk of injury, but will help players feel better and perform better on the ice. As I mentioned in one of my previous articles, 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 www.mikepickles-hockey.comBack to Top
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