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The Hockey Triad - Why We Should Be Concerned

Posted by David Speciale, B.H.K., CSCS on

It's no secret that hockey can take a physical toll on your body - just ask David Speciale, a strength coach at FITS Toronto. Each year, there are thousands of hockey related injuries. While not all of these injuries could have been prevented, educating yourself on injury prevention can go a long way in improving your chances of staying out on the ice. 

In a recent blog post, David discusses the importance of injury prevention:

When talking about injuries in hockey, many people are going to think about concussions. Heavy hits, big fights, and everything that entertains its fans is injuring its stars. It’s a good thing that fighting is down and hits to the head are now closely monitored by officials - right?

Hold on.

There’s still common injuries that are lingering, causing players of all ages to cut their careers short, or limiting their on-ice performance. I am talking about the Hockey Triad.

Just to be clear, I am not trying to downplay the seriousness of concussions. I am trying to empower parents, players, and coaches with the knowledge of stopping preventable injuries.

The Hockey Triad is comprised of the 3 most common preventable injuries in hockey. They are low back pain, groin strains, and hip pain. If you play hockey, or know someone who does, there is a pretty good chance that you have witnessed these injuries in some form. When we analyze a hockey player’s skating stride, it is no wonder why this is a common injury. Compensation at the low back to “get lower”, not having the strength to support the body on one leg causing grind on the hips, or constant abduction of the hips in the recovery phase of the stride will cause these issues.

Consider this - can a developing hockey player sustain the constant loading of their muscle tissues as a professional? These players are on the ice year-round, almost everyday of the week. When we factor in a love of the game, a desire to win, and the hard working attitude that hockey players pride themselves on, this can cause issues for players down the road. Players will start to have a break down in mechanics, which can be amplified in their fatigued state.

Even if we take a sample size of cases of the hockey triad in the 2016-2017 NHL season (and also consider their cap hit), we have a list that includes Josh Gorges (Buffalo, $3.9m), Semyon Varlamov (Colorado, $5.9m), Nick Kronwall (Detroit, $4.75m), Ales Hemsky (Dallas, $4m), Andrew Ference (Edmonton, $3.25m), Joffrey Lupul (Toronto, $5.25m). These are players that were sitting out as of January 31. This does not include players like PK Subban (Herniated disk, $9m, who was able to come back for the All-Star game) or Jonathan Quick (Groin, $5.8m) who were just labeled with an Upper body Injury, and Lower Body Injury, respectively. There were 22 players listed with a “Lower Body Injury” as of the publishing of this article.

We also need to consider probable first overall pick Nolan Patrick. He had missed the first half of the regular season due to sports hernia surgery, and only able to return to skating in early January. Thankfully, he is now back playing for the Brandon Wheat Kings, and was recently able to compete in the CHL Top Prospects game. But one does have to wonder, how has this affected his development, and what does it mean for his future? It’s no doubt that he will still go first overall in this June’s draft. However, his time away from the game obviously has stalled his development. Will this alter his off-season development in the future? Will his future professional team be able to use this against him in future contract negotiations? Only time will tell.

It is not feasible to tell kids to stop playing the sport they love or to tell the pros to slow down in order to prevent injuries. We can’t tell kids to stop playing, or tell pros to stop now. But, wecan look at our developmental model and try to find out why our players are prone to injury. Imagine the nightmare of multiple top prospects having to sit out their draft years because they have fallen victim to the Hockey Triad!

At FITS, we are committed to spreading the word about the Hockey Triad, and its prevention. If you would like any more information on the topic, visit our page at fitstoronto.com/hockey-triad. There you will be able to find a video presentation, and more information on our Hockey Triad Injury Prevention Program.

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