Hockey Hips

The Most important part of a hockey players body is by far their hips. The strength of the hip girdle is equally as important as the mobility of the surrounding musculature.

That being said, in hockey there is more often than  not an Adductor strain (read: Groin pull) or some type of injury related to the hip region. The beauty of this is it can be easily prevented through a sound pre-game warm-up routine consisting of some stretching and movement prep (drills) if you have the time.

Here’s a video I did with a fellow colleague and mentor Don White at Corexcellence.

If you don’t have a foam roller go ahead and fast forward to 2:21 and follow from there. I do however strongly suggest that you invest in a foam roller for the benefits of improved mobility and flexibility.

What are foam rollers you ask?!

Black foam rollers are the most dense and will outlast the softer white/red/blue models(which prove useless after only a few uses).

Think of it this way: Your muscles have similar elastic properties to a rubber band. When you tie a knot in a rubber band and you pull it from both sides, what happens?

If you actually take a rubber band and do this, you’ll notice that the knot will get tighter and the area on both sides of the knot will become thinner/weaker.  In other words, the whole thing will elongate, but the knot gets worse and the areas on both sides of the knot become damaged. In the photo above I’ve taken a green (lighter band) and a Black (heavier band) and tied them together to illustrate what happens with your muscles as you try and stretch the knot out.  All you will be doing by stretching the muscle is pulling on the knot making it tighter and essentially only stretching out one end more than the other. If you simply remove the knot (untie the band), the overall length of the band will increase and it will stretch much more efficiently. This is a more desirable alternative, and the reason we foam roll.

Rolling out myofascial restrictions (muscle knots) will improve the length and extensibility of the muscle without stretching it in the traditional sense.  It will also help you stretch more efficiently.

Hockey players remain in bent over athletic stance throughout the majority of their shift and then sit down on the bench at the end.

If you're in action, You're in hip flexion.

This posture certainly doesn’t help the flexibility of the anterior hip (hip flexors).

As an avid hockey player myself, I’ve noticed that if I take 3 minutes to properly stretch before jumping on the ice I can cut out groin pulls and muscle strains all together.

Here’s my pre-game stretching routine. I typically go into the position, feel the stretch and hold for 2-3 seconds before releasing and repeating. I do each stretch 8-10x per side.

In the gym if you have some spare time between sets, you can add in a few hip exercises. These relate to using the muscles involved in a complete stride through a full range of motion and at the same time working on the stabilizing musculature(read: injury prevention). I have found both with myself and my athletes that an incorporation of these exercises, along with foam rolling and stretching, greatly reduces the incidence of injury at the Adductor (groin) region.

I’ve always been a fan of working from the ground up. That being said here is the first stage of the exercises:

First work on ADDuction of the legs (bringing the legs toward the mid-line of the body) to directly work the groin.

If you  don’t have one of these Airex pads you could easily use a light medicine ball or even a folded up mat to substitute.

In terms of hip flexion (working the muscles that bring your knee to your chest) this is the first phase:

Progressing from the ground up, the next phase would be to stand up.

And then to incorporate both actions of hip flexion and hip ADDuction into one stride like movement.

So there you have it. The key to having healthy hips is to roll, stretch, and strengthen throughout the full range of motion. Try these out before your hockey game or any sporting event to give yourself the ultimate advantage in avoiding injury.

Feel free to leave a comment below and let me know how you feel after you try these strategies pre-game!

To your success,

Rich Thaw

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