With the hockey season well underway, there may come some niggles and injuries that may hold you back from participating to your full potential. This article will outline some of the reasons for this strain on the body, and how we can help to avoid this.
Since the 90’s, hockey has undergone certain rule changes, including the change of the offside rule, self-passing from the side-line and rolling substitutes. The synthetic surface has evolved making hockey a more fluid, responsive and demanding game to play. (Gone are the days of hacking a ball out of the muddy trenches!!)
In order to cope with the technical evolution of the game, the hockey player has had to adapt physiologically to meet the physical standards required. (1) Amongst many other unilateral sports (tennis, golf, squash) that require one side of the body working differently to the other, you can develop asymmetry and adaptive changes in the tissues of the body. Muscle imbalances may influence performance leading to a loss of playing time, affecting a player’s individual development and potentially having a negative impact on the team’s overall success. (2)
The typical body position of a hockey player would involve a forward flexed trunk position, going into a lunge when reaching for the ball, tracking sideways in this position to oppose the player, high force rotation over the front foot when striking/slapping/pushing or throwing an aerial. This would quickly change when playing off the ball and needing to run/sprint in a more upright position. This just demonstrates a few of the physical demands on the body and flexibility and strength required to perform at your best!
So, what does this do to our bodies over time?
Over time, muscles can adapt to the change of our body position and that’s why we need to pay attention to the way we move and how we keep ourselves flexible and strong enough to perform to our best ability. Below are some of the most commonly affected areas of the body, and how they can affect us day to day.
Hockey can put increased stress on spinal structures, with an average of 56% of hockey players reporting lower back pain that hampers their performance. (3) If this isn’t addressed at the time of injury it could persist, keeping us away from sport and activity and everyday function. The nature of bending at the waist during hockey may affect the lower back, including the core muscles ability to fire properly. Therefore, core strength is critical in transferring the power from your lower body to the upper body.
Achilles tendon, calf tightness and ankle instability can affect a lot of hockey players from the constant change of speed and direction needed in a game. Ankle injuries account for the highest incidence rate in hockey. (4)
Hamstrings/quadriceps and hips
The hamstrings and quadriceps muscles are prime movers in the force generated during hockey. These work together to accelerate and decelerate when moving and often get overworked in a game. Overworked muscles can therefore fatigue earlier, slow recovery and impede your performance! This often requires hands on physiotherapy to optimise performance such as stretching/ massage and specific strengthening work. Prevention of thigh muscle strain injuries (especially hamstrings) has successfully reduced hamstring burden. (4) If you are a desk based/office worker, then tight hip flexors may be furthermore compounded by your sitting position. Asking your hip flexors to then jump into a game of hockey is hard work, so correct stretching is highly recommended.
If you feel you need assistance or help with anything discussed in this article our Habit Physiotherapists can help you get back to your full potential so get in touch and book into to see one close to you.
Other hockey related injuries
< >Lower back painTight hip and hamstring musclesImpact injuries (being cracked with the ball!)Knee pain (ligament/ cartilage damage, arthritis)Rolled ankle injuriesMuscle imbalances causing painConcussion/ head injuriesShoulder painExpert advice and educationManual therapySports massageFunctional movement screeningGait re-educationOrthoticsConcussion servicesAccessible gyms for rehabilitation plansAcupuncture/ dry needlingRecommendations to other professionals (personal trainers, dieticians)Reilly, T & Borrie, A. (1992) Physiology applied to field hockey. Volume 14, issue 1. Pp 10-62.Newton, R.U., Gerber, A., Nimphius, S., Shim, J.K., Doan, B.K., Robertson, M., Pearson, D.R., Graig, B.W., Hakkinen, K., Kraemer, W.J., 2006. Determination of functional strength imbalance of the lower extremities. J. Strength Cond. Res. 20, 971–977.Van Hilst, J., Hilgersom, N. F. J., Kuilman, M. C., Kuijer, P. P. F. M., & Frings-Dresen, M. H. W. (2015). Low back pain in young elite field hockey players, football players and speed skaters: Prevalence and risk factors. Journal of Back and Musculoskeletal Rehabilitation, 28(1), 67–73. doi:10.3233/bmr-140491 Murtaugh, K. (2009). Field Hockey Injuries. Current Sports Medicine Reports, 8(5), 267–272