By Warren Tabachnick
It happens to all hockey players to some degree, at one time or another. Hockey is a fast and often dangerous sport, and sooner or later you may find yourself facing one type of hockey injury or another. How to identify the most common ones and what to do about them.
The most common hockey injuries are:
- Pulled Groin
- Knee Ligament
- Pulled Back Muscle; Lower-Back Strain
- Separated/Dislocated Shoulder
- Elbow Injury
- Wrist Fracture
- Thumb Sprain
A sudden stop, a blow to the body, or a sharp twist of the head may make an athlete feel momentarily dazed, dizzy or nauseated. Typically, the athlete would play through these symptoms or return to play as soon as he or she felt better. Yet, days and months later, that same athlete could be plagued by headaches, difficulty concentrating and mood swings.
Mental exertion or a return too early to physical activity before a brain injury is resolved can worsen symptoms and puts athletes at increased risk of repeat injury with potentially permanent neurologic consequences. Until fully recovered, the brain is in crisis. Injured again, the crisis could turn life-threatening.
An athlete should avoid strenuous activity until the athlete has no post-concussion symptoms at rest because physical activity may make symptoms worse and has the potential to delay recovery. While strict bed rest is not necessary, and while the effect of physical activity on concussion recovery has not been extensively studied (indeed, there is some evidence to suggest that mild physical exertion may actually help concussion recovery, especially for those suffering from post-concussion syndrome), the consensus of experts recommends broad restrictions on physical activity in the first few days after a concussion, including:
- No sports or activities that risk additional head injury or make symptoms worse
- No weight training
- No cardiovascular training
- No PE classes
- No sexual activity
Just as an athlete recovering from a concussion needs to get physical rest, he needs cognitive (mental) rest as well. Because a concussion impacts the brain’s cognitive function (those that involve thinking, concentrating, learning and reasoning), not its structure, engaging in cognitive activities (in other words, engaging in activities that requires a great deal of thinking or paying concentrated attention) may make an athlete’s concussion symptoms worse.
Cognitive rest means:
- Time off from school or work
- No or reduced homework
- No or limited reading
- No or limiting visually stimulating activities, such as computers, video games, texting or use of cell phones, and limited or no television
- No exercise, athletics, chores that result in perspiration/exertion
- No trips, social visits in or out of the home
- Increased rest and sleep
Pulled Groin Muscle (Hip Flexor/Adductor Strain)
What is a Pulled Groin Muscle?
A pulled groin muscle is commonly seen in athletes competing in sports that require quick acceleration and change of direction in forward and lateral movements. This type of hockey injury is a muscle injury occurring in the front hip region that involves the primary hip flexor muscles (iliopsoas, rectus femoris, tensor fascia latae, and sartorius), and/or the hip adductor muscle group (a group of five muscles that contract to bring the leg in and across the body, including the pectineus, gracilis, and adductor magnus, longus, and brevis).
A pulled groin muscle is caused by either overloading or overstretching the muscle, especially if the muscle is not stretched and warmed up. Tight adductor muscles are another cause of pulled groin muscle. Most athletes concentrate on stretching their quadriceps and hamstring muscle groups, but do not give the same attention to their adductor muscle group. These muscles tend to be tighter than other hip muscles hence placing an athlete at risk for injury.
Athletes susceptible to a pulled groin muscle are those in sports that require a quick change of direction as well as explosive movements. Hockey players suffer from pulled groin muscles especially when their hip muscles are not stretched and properly warmed up.
A sports medicine professional can diagnose a pulled groin muscle given a thorough medical history and comprehensive physical assessment. If it’s been determined that the condition is serious in nature, an MRI can be ordered to look specifically at the muscle tissue.
Preventing a Pulled Groin Muscle
Prevention of pulled groin muscles should focus on flexibility and strengthening programs for both the hip adductors and hip flexors and a proper warm-up to adequately prepare the muscles for explosive movements.
Flexibility of the hip adductor/flexor muscle group can be improved through consistent daily stretching exercises specifically geared for these muscle groups. It is well known that muscles that are consistently and properly stretched will increase their tissue flexibility. However, it is also well known that muscles that are not stretched will get tighter and tighter over time.
One of the frequent mistakes made by coaches and athletes is to cut the preparatory warm-up too short. A quick lap around a field [the ice] lasting less than five minutes is not an effective warm-up for the body. After the body is warmed up, the athlete should participate in a progression of sport-specific skills that gradually increase in their intensity. The skills in the warm-up should include all of the major muscle groups that are used in the athlete’s sport. Continued