Exercise and Hockey Players

I recently treated a young patient with a groin injury who is a competitive hockey player.  Apparently this was not the first time he pulled his groin muscle while skating.

Groin injuries in hockey players are well-documented.  And most of these injuries don’t involve contact,  mostly due to the excessive amount of force generated during the acceleration and deceleration phases of skating.1   A study by Emery et al found that the recurrence rate of this type of injury was 23.5%.2That’s what we in the healthcare industry call a “chronic” problem.

What’s interesting about these groin injuries is that it doesn’t seem to be related to “tightness” of the groin musculature (known as “adductor” muscles).  Research focused on elite NHL players with a history of groin injuries found that these adductor muscles are weak, particularly in relation to the opposing “abductor” muscles on the outside of the leg.3

If you’re interested in the root cause of this muscle imbalance and want to read more about it, there’s a really nice article that can be found on the blog of Mike Reinold’s website (www.mikereinold.com)   Mike is a physiotherapist and athletic trainer who treats professional athletes, and is a great online educational resource of mine.

For those of you who are hockey players – or any other athlete who may want to avoid a groin injury – here are a few suggested exercises to incorporate into your workout to address a possible muscle imbalance around the hips/thigh area.

Odds are, as an athlete, you spend a lot of time with your hips flexed (the “athletic stance”).  Over time, this will cause the pelvis to rotate forward – lengthening your abdominal muscles in the front of your body, and the hamstring muscles at the back.  So, anterior and lateral core work, and glute/hamstring strengthening are critical to restoring neutral alignment of the pelvis. 

Start with mobility exercises or myofascial release with a foam roller to open up the hips.

Hip Flex/Hip Rocking

Foam Rolling Hip Flexors

Then add:
Rotational Core Strengthening:

and Glute, Hamstring, Adductor Strengthening:

Supine Bridge with weight (hip thrusts)
Bilateral or single leg RDL:
Abductor Side Bridging

REFERENCES:

1.       Sim FH, Chao EY.  Injury potential in modern ice hockey.  Am J Sports Med 1978, (6)378–384

2.       Emery CA, Meeuwisse WH, Powell JW.  Groin and abdominal strain injuries in the national hockey league.  Clin J Sports Med 1999, July 9(3): 151-6

3.       Peter Nelson, Groin Injuries in Hockey Players, mikereinold.com