How to Prevent Back Injuries in Hockey
Russell Gunner, C.A.T. (C)

We all know the history of the great Mario Lemeiux and his years of struggling with back problems. Mike Bossy of New York Islander fame and Stan Makita of the Chicago Blackhawks both retired due to back injuries. These are just a few of the players that have suffered from this very common, yet debilitating injury. How often have you heard the media say that a certain player will be out due to back spasms? There are three basic things you can do to help prevent back injuries in hockey; develop a strong core (abdominals), proper hitting habits that reduce the strain placed on the back and no twisting.

1. Strengthen the abdominals

The abdominal muscles are crucial to holding the core (back and stomach) together. People often wonder why the abdominals, when it is my back that is hurting. Usually the lower abdominals (below the waist line) will be quite weak on most people, and therefore not be able to hold the pelvis stable the way it should. If you find you lower abdominals are weak, see a trainer or athletic therapist to set you up with a very specific conditioning program. You will be surprised at the results you will get. Any person, who has ever walked into my clinic with some back pain, will always get a good core stabilization program before they leave.

Prevent Back Injuries in Hockey

2. Proper hitting in hockey

Your league may or may not involve body contact. We will not discuss the merits of hitting at young ages here today, but more on how to prevent a back injury if you are doing it. I am by no means an expect on body checking. For the many years that I played, I spent most of my time with my butt on the ice from getting checked. There are some basic rules to follow. Stay close to boards when getting a hit and not just a few feet away. The boards are there for impact. If you are further away your body may twist or worse, go head first. We all know the consequences of that happening. If you are the ?hitter?, go into the player and boards at an angle. This will lessen your chance of missing the hit and going face first into the boards yourself.

3. NO Twisting.

The rule in the workplace for years has always been, "Keep your nose, between your toes". What this means is whenever you twist always keep your feet moving and never let your trunk twist beyond where your feet are pointing. In hockey, this means the same thing. If you are going around a player or behind the net, try to keep your waist pointing in the same direction as you feet are pointing.

It's important to know your body's limitations, and it's important to be aware of your body position at all times. Learn to recognize those situations where your back is most a risk: bending,

lifting, reaching, twisting, etc. Then take measures to avoid an injury.

Stretch first ? Although there are no studies that show stretching before an activity can prevent the injuries, I have always thought that warm muscles will work more efficiently and therefore decrease their chance of straining.

Sleep on a firm mattress. - Also, the best sleeping position for many people is either on the back with the knees slightly elevated (by a pillow), or on the side with knees slightly bent with a pillow between them.

If you are currently suffering from a back injury, it could be one of many things. It may be a minor muscle strain to a more serious disc herniation. A back left untreated can go on for years. I was always very frustrated when I heard Mike Bossy say in an interview one time, that "once you have had back pain, you will have it for the rest of your life". I have never heard anything more incorrect. In only a very few circumstances is this true, but the majority of all back injuries can be resolved. See an athletic therapist or physiotherapist ASAP to get it assessed and treated. You will be surprised how a nagging problem may be fixed in one treatment.

If you have any further questions or comments regarding low back pain or any other injuries, please do not hesitate to contact us.