Updated: Oct 28
Hockey and the Benefits of Regular Sports Massage.
Hockey (field hockey) has been a beloved and highly popular sport in the UK (and internationally) for generations, with a rich history in the UK dating back to the 19th century. Attracting players of all ages and skill levels - from juniors & adults playing socially for their local teams, through to playing for your country in events such as the Commonwealth games and the Olympics.
Hockey is a thrilling, fast-paced sport where two teams (11 aside) play mainly outdoors (is also played indoors) on artificial turf/astro or water based pitches aiming to score goals by hitting a small, hard ball into the opposing team's goal using a long stick with a curved end suitable for controlling the ball. Players often find themselves running, dribbling the ball, and passing the ball to teammates, all while trying to evade opponents and executing intricate plays to get that goal!
The game is characterised by its high tempo, strategic plays, and a sense of camaraderie among players.
It requires cardiovascular endurance, strength, agility and teamwork with players in this sport relying on their legs, core, and upper body strength.
The physical demands of hockey can be intense, leading to muscle soreness, fatigue, and the risk of injuries. The fast-paced nature of the game requires players to be in a good physical condition, and as a result, injuries are not uncommon.
In this article, we will explore the most common muscular injuries experienced, and the invaluable benefits of regular massage therapy in preventing and treating these injuries.
Warming Up and Cooling Down
Before diving into the role of sports massage, it's essential to understand the significance of proper warm-up and cool-down routines. Warming up prepares your muscles and joints for the physical demands of the game, enhancing flexibility and reducing the risk of injury. Common warm-up activities in hockey include dynamic stretching, jogging, and stick work drills.
Some easy-to-understand stretches and exercises that can be incorporated into your routine include:
Dynamic Leg Swings: Swing one leg forward and backward, gradually increasing the height and speed of your swing. This helps to warm up your leg muscles and improve flexibility.
Arm Circles: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and make large circles with your arms, both forward and backward. This helps to loosen up your shoulders and upper body.
Hip Flexor Stretch (Lunges): Step one leg forward and bend at the hip until you feel a stretch in your hip flexor. Hold for 15-20 seconds on each leg.
After the game - cooling down with static stretches helps to reduce the risk of injury, prevent muscle soreness, and encourage the body to gradually return to its resting state.
These practices are essential for maintaining player longevity and preventing overuse injuries.
Common Muscular Injuries or Strains
Hockey players often experience a range of muscular injuries and strains due to the game's dynamic nature. Some of the most common issues include:
Hamstring Strains: These occur when the muscles at the back of the thigh are stretched or torn. Quick sprints, abrupt changes in direction, and lunging movements can put significant stress on the hamstring muscles.
Quadriceps and Groin Strains: Players are prone to quadriceps and groin strains due to the need for strong leg muscles to control the ball and perform quick turns.
Calf Strains: Hockey involves frequent running and jumping, which can lead to calf muscle strains, especially if you're not adequately warmed up.
Shoulder Injuries: Stick work, tackling, and collisions can lead to shoulder injuries, including Rotator cuff strains.
Lower Back Pain: Constant bending and twisting can strain the lower back, causing discomfort and pain.
Hip Flexor Strains: Rapid changes in direction and the need for explosive power in your legs can lead to hip flexor strains.
Strains and Sprains: Players often suffer from muscle strains and ligament sprains due to the quick changes in direction, abrupt stops, and sudden accelerations involved in the game.
Overuse Injuries: Overuse injuries, such as tendonitis and stress fractures, can occur from the repetitive nature of the sport, especially in the wrist, hand, and ankle.
Muscle Contusions: These are deep bruises caused by impacts with sticks or other players. Contusions can lead to pain, swelling, and limited mobility.
Benefits of Massage Therapy for Hockey Players.
One valuable tool in preventing and managing these injuries is regular massage therapy. Regular sports massage can help to identify and address areas of muscle tension and tightness before they lead to injuries.
It can improve muscle flexibility and reduce the risk of strains and sprains.
Here are some of the key benefits:
Improved Performance: Sports massage can enhance an athlete's performance by promoting better circulation, increased range of motion, and faster recovery between matches.
Enhanced Flexibility: Hockey requires a high degree of flexibility. Regular massage can help improve joint range of motion and muscle elasticity, reducing the chances of strains and sprains.
Reduced Muscle Tension: Massage therapy relaxes tight muscles, preventing overuse injuries and promoting overall relaxation.
Pain Management: For athletes already dealing with injuries, massage therapy can help manage pain and discomfort, allowing them to return to the field sooner.
Stress Reduction: High levels of stress and anxiety can contribute to muscular tension. Massage therapy promotes relaxation and can alleviate stress, which can be especially helpful for athletes during intense training and competition.
Muscle Recovery: Massage therapy aids in the process of reducing muscle soreness (DOMs) and promoting faster recovery after games and practices.
Injury Prevention: By identifying tight or imbalanced muscle groups and addressing them through targeted massage, therapists can help prevent injuries from occurring in the first place.
Recovery and Relaxation: After intense games, sports massage aids in the recovery process by reducing muscle soreness and tension. It helps players relax and rejuvenate, both physically and mentally.
Prevention is always better than cure!
For staying fit and healthy throughout the season - Prevention is always better than treatment.
To reduce the risk of injuries, consider the following:
Proper Warm-Up and Cool Down: Don't skip your warm-up and cool down routines. Warming up your muscles before play and stretching them afterwards can prevent injuries and aid in recovery.
Hydration: Staying well-hydrated is essential. Dehydration can lead to muscle cramps, fatigue, and decreased performance. Water should be your best friend on and off the pitch.
Strength and Conditioning: Include strength training exercises in your routine to build muscle strength and stability. A strong core and leg muscles are essential for hockey players.
Correct Technique: Work with a coach to ensure you have proper technique when passing, receiving, and shooting.
Protective Gear: Always wear appropriate protective gear, including mouth-guards, shin guards, and helmets.
Rest and Recovery: Allow your body sufficient time to recover between games and practice sessions.
So to bring it all together -
Hockey is an exhilarating sport that may come with possible injuries, requiring players to maintain their physical condition to excel on the pitch.
By incorporating regular massage therapy into their training regime, players can prevent common musculoskeletal injuries, enhance their performance, and ensure they stay fit and healthy throughout the season.
Remember that the benefits of sports massage extend beyond injury prevention; it can also enhance your overall performance and well-being outside of the game too.
With a commitment to fitness, proper conditioning, and the therapeutic benefits of massage, hockey players can continue to enjoy the excitement and camaraderie that this beloved sport brings.
Whilst not personally a hockey player, Ali is a Sports Massage therapist who has been surrounded by hockey for the past 20+ years since meeting her husband who has always been a keen hockey player playing for local teams.
Ali Iles is a Reflexology & Massage Therapist based in Downend, Bristol, UK.
Providing you with time for relaxation - relieving tension and helping to improve your sense of well-being and health.