It is not uncommon to find that hockey players who have enjoyed the sport for many years begin to develop overuse injuries. In particular hip or knee overuse injuries are a common talking point for masters’ hockey players. Also because of the twisting, turning, unstable nature of playing hockey on artificial surfaces players are prone to injury associated with hips, knees, and ankles. Should this deter hockey participation – no way! However it is something that needs to be not ignored too. Especially, when it comes to young hockey players who are growing both into the sport, and physically as well. In this article we look at knee issues and how by strengthening the functionality of the knee one can do their best to prevent knee injuries.
In studies of female hockey players playing on artificial turf, Fuller (1985) and Jamison and Lee (1989) respectively, reported 24% and 17% of all injuries were to the knee. Freke and Dalgleish (1994b) found that injuries to the knee were common (14%) amongst elite female players, while knee pain was reported by 30% of players surveyed. Some sports medicine professionals believe that synthetic playing surfaces have decreased the playing life of the modern hockey player by increasing the prevalence of shin soreness, knee pain and lower backs problems. However, the only study to compare injury patterns on the two surfaces found that knee injuries were more frequent on natural grass than on synthetic turf (24.5% versus 17.9%) (Jamison and Lee, 1989).
What are the common knee injuries?
The anatomy of the knee
Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) Injuries
The anterior cruciate ligament is often injured during sports activities. Hockey players are likely to injure their anterior cruciate ligaments. Changing direction rapidly can tear the ACL. About half of all injuries to the anterior cruciate ligament occur along with damage to other structures in the knee, such as articular cartilage, meniscus, or other ligaments.
Posterior Cruciate Ligament Injuries
The posterior cruciate ligament is often injured from a blow to the front of the knee while the knee is bent. Posterior cruciate ligament tears tend to be partial tears with the potential to heal on their own.
Posterior cruciate ligament tear (shown from back of knee).
Collateral Ligament Injuries
Injuries to the collateral ligaments are usually caused by a force that pushes the knee sideways. These are often contact injuries. Injuries to the MCL are usually caused by a direct blow to the outside of the knee, and are often sports-related. Blows to the inside of the knee that push the knee outwards may injure the lateral collateral ligament. Lateral collateral ligament tears occur less frequently than other knee injuries.
The quadriceps and patellar tendons can be stretched and torn. Although anyone can injure these tendons, tears are more common among middle-aged people. Falls, direct force to the front of the knee, and landing awkwardly are common causes of knee tendon injuries.
The most common overuse injury is “runner’s knee,” a loose term that refers to several disorders, including patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS). These painful conditions are common among athletes such as runners and for hockey players prolong playing/training on synthetic surfaces especially sand based surfaces or surfaces with poor shock pads
Pain is experienced behind or around the kneecap, and can travel to the thigh or shin. The pain worsens with activity and is relieved by rest. Hockey coaches and parents should monitor younger players for this type of injury.
KNEE INJURY PREVENTION
Some knee injuries are unpreventable but by strengthening your knee is a key to limiting the damage or limiting the potential for overuse injury. The following four exercises are used to strengthen the knee functionality.
You can’t go wrong with a wall sit — you can do them almost anywhere, and they are extremely effective for helping you strengthen your quads. To do a wall sit:
- Stand with your back against a wall, placing your feet about two feet out in front of you. Feet should be hip-distance apart.
- Bending your knees, slide your back down the wall until your knees are at 90-degree angles. Your knee joints should be over your ankle joints, so you may need to inch your feet farther from the wall to create proper alignment. Your thighs should remain parallel.
- Hold for 30 to 60 seconds, and then stand up. Repeat for a total of three reps.
- To make this move more challenging, alternate between lifting your left heel for a few seconds and then your right. This helps to target your calves.
Weak quads and tight hamstrings can be a recipe for disaster when it comes to your knees. Loosen up hamstrings and shoulders with this tip-over tuck hamstring stretch:
- Stand with your feet hip-width distance apart. Interlace your hands behind your back. Keeping your legs straight, bend at the hips, tucking your chin and bringing your hands over your head.
- Relax the back of your neck, and if the stretch is too intense, then release your hands, placing them on the backs of your thighs, and soften your knees. Hold for 30 seconds, and slowly roll up to standing.
Making sure your calves stay stretched and loosened will help alleviate runner’s knee. Try this classic calf stretch against a wall.
- Stand a little less than arm’s distance from the wall.
- Step your left leg forward and your right leg back, keeping your feet parallel.
- Bend your left knee and press through your right heel.
- Hold for 20 to 30 seconds and switch legs.
Many people neglect their side muscles, which can mean that the muscles surrounding your knee joint can be weakened. Incorporate lateral work into your routine so you help strengthen those muscles. Try doing alternating side lunges to strengthen all areas of your butt, hips, and thighs.
- Start with your feet directly under your hips. Step your right foot wide to the side coming into a lunge with your left fingers touching your right foot. Your right knee shouldn’t go beyond your right toes. Keep your chest lifted and your weight in your heels.
- Push into your right foot to return to standing, then lunge sideways to the left to complete one rep.