Wear and tear of your knees can cut short your hockey playing life">

SPORTS MEDICINE: Wear and tear of your knees can cut short your hockey playing life

Recently in a hockey dugout prior to a game of grand masters hockey it was an eye opener to observe how many of the players had been subject to knee surgery. This again reinforces the need to bring to the attention of hockey players, coaches, administrators, parents the importance of preventing knee injuries. In particular, knee injuries that result from constant wear and tear, as opposed to knee injuries caused by body contact, falls or sudden twisting etc.

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 who have played their chosen sport over decades. 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 a sport that has the lifelong potential it is important to address those aspects can cut a playing career prematurely short.  In this article we look at the overuse knee issue 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. This was supported further by Ellapen, et al., 2011; Ellapen, Bowyer & van Heerden, 2014).  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.

These statistics identify that there is a need to address potential overuse injuries of the knees.

Overuse 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.

Another overuse injury is patellar tendinitis which is an injury to the tendon connecting your kneecap (patella) to your shinbone. The patellar tendon works with the muscles at the front of your thigh to extend your knee so that you can kick, run and jump.

Patellar tendinitis, also known as jumper’s knee, is most common in athletes whose sports involve frequent jumping — such as basketball and volleyball. However, even people who don’t participate in jumping sports can get patellar tendinitis. Initially, you may only feel pain in your knee as you begin physical activity or just after an intense workout. Over time, the pain worsens and starts to interfere with playing your sport. Eventually, the pain interferes with daily movements such as climbing stairs or rising from a chair.



The first thing to consider is the amount of hockey being played, particularly on synthetic  fie lds. Coaches need to ensure young charges under their control are provided with the right exercise to strengthen the knee and surrounding muscles. Also there is need to plan recuperative  rest from extensive training to help prevent overuse damage. Certainly eating the right foods for joint health and possible use of nutritional supplementation is also a consideration

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.

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