Scotland: Hockey Ready – a warmup to reduce injury

For most hockey players, and other seasonal sport players, summer is for rest and recovery from the season’s activities maybe to do other activities. Some continue to play, such as talent or performance players in internationals, training camps or fitness programmes, for others it may be mixed matches with more focus on fun. Some coaches may be planning pre-season activities in preparation for the season ahead so players can be fit enough for the upcoming fixtures. One element that maybe in a fitness programme are injury prevention exercises as well as the fitness.

Injuries in hockey are quite common with some being minor like being hit with a ball or a stick (contact injuries), some are without any contact at all (noncontact). These noncontact injuries occur mainly to the lower extremity (hips downwards) with the knees, hamstrings and ankles most frequently.  The reason why these injuries occur (the mechanism) is mainly through changing direction (particularly unanticipated changes in direction), landing/stopping and (de)acceleration which are all common activities during a hockey game. These injuries cause some soft tissue damage, often muscular or in the more severe cases, ligament damage. The good news is that this damage doesn’t always result in time away from playing hockey (‘no time loss’) especially for those that play twice a week (i.e. one training session and one game a week). Some of these injuries may result in a few weeks with very few resulting a month away from playing hockey. There are injuries that result in a longer recovery time such as Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) or ankle ligament damage.

Other good news is that most of these injuries can be either reduced in frequency and/or reduced in severity with some easy to do exercises that can be done either separately or as part of a warm up before training or matches.

Another contributing factor to noncontact injuries is the preparation prior to the activity, i.e. the warm up. Most people do a warm up before training and games which is good. However, the content of this warm up is important. Recent observations show that most if not all teams warm up before training and games.  These warm ups last for a good amount of time (20-25 mins) and often contain the right structure (a pulse raiser, stretching and some harder/faster activities like sprinting).

There is an opportunity for improvement. Coaches have indicated that they would like to see a greater length and intensity in the warm up, more injury reduction or prevention exercises and more sport-specific exercises.

Based on the observations of the warm ups and feedback from coaches, an alternative warm up has been developed. This version of the warm up follows the RAMP principle (Raise, Activate and Mobilise, Potentiate), includes the feedback from coaches and has been tested so that the heart rate gradually increases and ends up reaches match intensities. This new version- a neuromuscular training program – starts with multi-directional pulse raising activities, activates key muscle groups (lower leg muscles especially calves, hamstrings and gluteals). Then has 2 short sections to help reduce injuries with core stability and balance exercises.  To follow these exercises, there are some key strength exercises especially the hamstrings. To finish there are some agility (to improve speed, increase the intensity of muscle activation in all directions) then the potentiation exercises finish the preparation for a game or training session with sprinting and multi-directional changes of direction. The warm up concludes with a game-like activity which also stimulates the strategic, tactical and, what all hockey players like, their competitive nature! This warm has been tested in a sports science environment and increases muscle activation and changes hockey player’s movement so there is less chance of injury in the same time as current warm ups. Also, contrary to popular belief, it doesn’t impinge on performance.

This new warm up – ‘Hockey Ready’ – has also been developed, in conjunction with Scottish Hockey, into an easy to follow, free to download warm up poster for all to use. Visit https://www.scottish-hockey.org.uk/participation/hockey-ready-warm-up/ to download a copy. If you have any questions, please contact [email protected] or if you would like a more scientific explanation, please contact Dr Tom Johnston on [email protected].

To have a warm up that reduces the chances of injury, adds many of the elements desired by coaches and players alike and doesn’t impinge on performance (probably improves it) in the same time as current warm ups is a good step forward for the hockey playing community. Injuries will always be a part of playing sport but to reduce the chances and if an injury is sustained then a programme like this can reduce the severity, therefore, the time loss is beneficial.

Please download a copy of ‘Hockey Ready’ from the Scottish Hockey website and if you want to know more, a webinar has been organised on 15th August from 7.30-8.30pm for Coaches and Captains.  Register via Eventbrite.

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by Scotland Hockey

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