Ice hockey is an exciting and exhilarating sport, but the price that participants pay is often found in a wide variety of injuries. Considering that it is both a contact sport and an activity that requires great balance and agility, it should come as no surprise that almost anything goes when it comes to injuries encountered by players. In this post, we will outline the three most common injuries found in ice hockey athletes, as well as discuss how physical therapy treatment can help players get back on the ice and regain their former level of activity.

Head Concussion

Between collisions with other players, falls, or a blow to the head from a hockey stick or puck, it’s no wonder that a concussion is one of the most common injuries experienced by ice hockey players. A concussion can occur after a blow to the head or a whiplash-type injury where the brain shakes back in forth in a rapid motion. A person suffering from a concussion may experience a wide variety of symptoms including nausea, headaches, blurred vision, and dizziness and balance problems. A very serious concussion might include symptoms such as memory loss, confusion and perhaps even unconsciousness. Of course, anyone who receives a head concussion should seek immediate medical attention. If a physician decides their patient is a good candidate for physical therapy, they will write a prescription for treatment at an appropriate time.

Physical therapy can help concussion patients recover from symptoms such as vertigo and balance-related issues, as well as problems with blurred vision and/or difficulty focusing the eyes. A professional physical therapist can offer patients specific exercises designed to reduce discomfort as well as retrain the brain to function normally again. Headaches are another common symptom of concussion sufferers, which may actually be due to muscle strains or sprains in the cervical region. Physical therapists can also help to eliminate these types of headaches by realigning the cervical spine, in addition to treating irritated muscles.

Groin Strain

Groin strains are a common injury seen in hockey players, due to the lightning-fast twists and turns expected of players, as well as the intense interaction of hip and thigh muscles that come into play from the skating motion itself, especially starts and stops. Physical therapists can help by treating the pain and inflammation that typically come with these types of muscles strains. They can also conduct tests such as the FABER test and/or the Torque test to help determine which specific muscles are injured. Physical therapists can also determine whether a muscle imbalance is a core issue and can recommend key stretching and strengthening exercises when a patient is ready.

High Ankle Sprain

Balancing on skates while engaging in strenuous physical activity means ice hockey players typically have very strong ankles. There is one ligament that remains somewhat vulnerable, the anteroinferior tibiofibular ligament or AITFL for short. This ligament can become strained if a hockey player attempts to twist their foot out and away after getting it stuck in the ice or against one of the arena boards. An AITFL injury is sometimes referred to as a high ankle sprain. A physical therapist may conduct a Kleiger test to determine if a patient’s pain is stemming from an actual AITFL injury. If so, a physical therapist will first focus on reducing any pain and swelling in the area, as well as protecting adjacent vulnerable ligaments from injury. They will gradually introduce exercises designed to maintain, then increase the range of motion — eventually adding exercises that strengthen ligaments and adjacent supporting muscles.

Summary

If you need help after an ice hockey injury, we can help! Please contact Cawley PT and Rehab at 570-208-2787 or email Frank at: cawleyptfrank@gmail.com.