Hockey’s Effect on the Body

Ice hockey is officially recognised as Canada’s national winter sport. More than 1.2 million people in Canada over the age of 15 play hockey and there is an annual growth rate for overall hockey participation of 1.5%. The passion and atmosphere present at every match are unrivalled and there are few, if any, sports that are as thrilling and exciting to watch.

That said, hockey is a competitive and physical sport to play. Injuries are common among participants and playing the sport can take a serious toll on the body. If you have sustained any hockey injuries, you will know how frustrating it can be as you sit on the sidelines during the recovery stage.

In this blog post, we will take a look at the most common hockey injuries and highlight the importance of undergoing physical therapy in order to return to the ice fit and healthy. Let’s get started.

AC joint injury

The acromioclavicular joint (AC) joint, is part of the shoulder complex. Along with ligaments, it connects the shoulder blade to the collarbone.

Given the force of shoulder tackles and body checking in hockey, it is unsurprising that this is a common injury among participants. It may also occur as a result of a hard fall on the ice.

There are three main types of AC joint injuries, depending on the severity of the ligament tear.

A Type 1 injury refers to a slight tear without any damage to the associated coracoclavicular (CC) ligament. A Type 2 injury occurs when the AC ligament is completely torn, though there is little to no tear to the CC ligament. Finally, the Type 3 tear refers to a complete tear of both the AC and CC ligaments and separation of the collarbone from the end of the shoulder blade.

Shoulder dislocation

A shoulder dislocation occurs when the humerus bone pulls out of the shoulder joint. Given the physical nature of the sport, shoulder dislocations are relatively common in hockey.

Physical therapy is recommended to treat this type of injury. The goal of rehabilitation is to increase the joint’s strength and restore its typical range of motion.

Broken collarbone

Also known as the clavicle, the collarbone connects the arms to the body. It is another relatively common injury in hockey and the majority of fractures occur in the middle part of the collarbone.

In addition to arm support, pain medication, and ice, physical therapy is an effective treatment strategy. Exercises can help to prevent stiffness while the bone is healing and improve strength and flexibility in the arm.

MCL injury

Another common hockey injury is the medial collateral ligament (MCL) injury. The MCL is located on the inner part of the knee, though outside of the joint itself. It connects the top of the shinbone to the bottom of the thighbone.

As with AC joint injuries, there are three classifications of MCL injury. The least severe type, known as Grade 1, indicates that the ligament has been stretched but not torn.

Grade 2 indicates that the ligament has been partly torn, while Grade 3 indicates a complete tear. The latter is the most severe type of ligament injury. In hockey, this type of injury may occur when one player applies a force to the outside part of the leg, above the knee.

Physical therapy is effective to strengthen the muscles and improving the range of motion of the affected knee. In some cases, surgery may be required to treat an MCL injury.

ACL injury

ACL stands for anterior cruciate ligament. This type of injury refers to an injury to the ligament in the knee that prevents the shinbone from sliding forward. It is a common injury not only in hockey but many other sports.

As with the above information on MCL injury, physical therapy can help to improve the range of motion and strengthen the affected muscles.

High ankle sprain injury

The most common type of ankle sprain is the low ankle sprain. However, this is not very common in hockey due to the fact that the ankle is protected from the stake. Rather, many hockey players experience what is known as a high ankle sprain—ligament damage at the joint between the tibia and fibula.

It can occur in hockey when the stake becomes stuck in the ice and the player’s foot twists outwards. Signs of a high ankle sprain include pain, swelling, and the inability to put weight on the foot. This kind of injury sometimes also results in a fractured fibula.

The steps to recovering from a high ankle sprain include:

  • Ice
  • Compression
  • Anti-inflammatory and pain medication
  • Rest
  • Strengthen

On the last point, physical therapy can help to strengthen the tendons and reduce the likelihood of this injury reoccurring in the future.

Groin strain injury

A groin strain is a very common injury, whether within hockey or any other active sport. It refers to a tear or injury to any of the adductor muscles of the inner thigh. Sudden movements can trigger this injury, including twisting to change direction while running.

Again, there are three main classifications of a groin strain injury. A Grade 1 injury occurs when the muscle is overstretched, damaging up to 5% of the muscle fibres. It has a recovery time of two to three weeks.

A Grade 2 injury damages a significantly higher percentage of the muscle fibres and has a recovery time of two to three months. The most serious type is Grade 3, which has a recovery time of four months or more and may require surgery.

How Can We Help With Hockey Injuries?

Here at Elysian Wellness Centre, we provide a wide range of patient services. These include physiotherapy, chiropractic, massage therapy, custom braces and rehabilitation equipment, and more.

If you have suffered an injury while playing hockey, our professional and experienced team is here to help. For a free phone consultation about your hockey injuries, contact us today.


Johanne Gordon - Registered Physiotherapist

Johanne is an experienced, fluently bilingual physiotherapist who graduated in 1992 with a Bachelor of Science in physiotherapy with magna cum laude honours from the University of Ottawa.

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