by Amanda Vito, PT, DPT
Ice hockey is one of the fastest growing sports for today’s youth, but it is also a great sport to participate in as you get older in order to stay in shape and stay in touch with old teammates. Unfortunately, the nature of the game and the stress that skating and hitting can place on the body causes hockey players to become highly prone to injury throughout their career.
Lower body injuries are extremely common due to your posture when skating and the stress placed on your legs to perform powerful strides and quick starts and stops. If a player wants to be effective and play at the highest levels, they need to take care of their hips both on and off the ice.
One of the most common injuries that a hockey player can experience is a hip flexor strain. Your hip flexor muscles are responsible for powering your legs when pushing off the ice and when pulling your knee towards your body create the next stride. If your hip flexors are tight, you will not be able to create the power that you need to skate at your full speed, and it can ultimately lead to a strain and injury of the muscle.
A great way to maintain the flexibility of this muscle during practice or in a pivotal game is to perform stretching off the ice before and after skating.
Here are basic on-and-off-ice stretches that can be performed prior to skating and as a cool down
1). Hip Flexor Stretch
There are many ways to target your hip flexor muscle group. One way is to lay on a bed or table with the leg that you are stretching hanging off the edge. By pulling the opposite leg towards your chest, keeping your back flat and letting the stretching leg hang off the edge, you will feel a gentle pull in the front of your thigh and in the front of your groin.
a. Alternative kneeling hip flexor stretch: Kneel on a foam pad or pillow with your stretching leg while simultaneously placing your opposite leg on the floor in front of you. Shift your weight forward into a kneeling lunge. Again, you should feel a stretch in the front of your groin and thigh.
2). Hip Adductor/groin Stretch
Your hip adductor muscles, typically referred to as your groin muscles, run along your inner thigh. Due to the frequency of using crossovers and slight hip flexion when skating, you adductor muscle can become very tight. You can stretch by sitting on the ground, with feet together, and letting your knees relax towards the floor.
3). Foam Rolling
Using a foam roller is an excellent way to perform a self-massage to tight muscles. You should use your arms to support your body weight and allow the muscle you are massaging to have pressure against the foam roller. You should massage each muscle for 3-5 minutes.
For more information on how to best treat common ice hockey and other sports injuries, visit Performance Physical Therapy and Fitness at either our Hockessin or Wilmington locations in Delaware.