At Evo Performance Rehab, we have had significant numbers of hockey players we have worked with in all areas, from youth overcoming acute injuries to college athletes coming back from surgeries or working to revamp their movement patterns for greater skating speed and power to older people seeking to stay in the game in their beer leagues.
Common Hockey Injuries: From Separated Shoulders to Knee Problems
Conventionally, when someone sustains an injury from hockey, you're frequently hearing about separated shoulders, low back injuries, groin and hip flexor muscle pulls, wrist and neck issues, as well as concussions.
Knee issues can also be very common as falls, where other people fall onto your body at different angles, can often lead to vulnerable forces creating things like ACL and MCL tears and damage to the meniscus of the knee.
Traditional Recovery Approach: Limitations and Stress on Athletes
When people sustain these injuries, they're often referred to their team's athletic trainer, who then sends them on to, if it's serious enough, an orthopedic doctor within their own network. And they're either given things like pain medications and physical therapy exercises or prescribed to take certain amounts of time off.
These answers can be very unproductive and stressful to hear when people have compressed timelines and sports seasons that are only for certain windows in the year.
Quicker Healing, Pain Relief, and Return to Play
At Evo Performance Rehab, we're able to work with people to recover on extremely accelerated timelines because of our ability to help find the origins of issues quickly and correct them at a game-speed level of intensity.
Oftentimes, if a hockey player injures their hip flexor in a game, for instance, they are sitting out for multiple weeks and then nursing their hip flexor and chronically feeling tension and pain for weeks and weeks at a time.
When we work with these people, we can figure out the dynamics, such as the hamstrings not firing fully, which is causing excess tension in the adductors and hip flexors, which is creating too much stress in their hockey stride.
By helping the body reset its movement patterns and activation through the neurological soft tissue therapy process, these athletes can get back to full skating strides with little to no pain, typically within days, if not one to two weeks.
How We Helped a High School Goaltender Return to Play in 1.5 Weeks
One story of a client that comes to mind is that a senior goaltender at a local high school had, in one of the early games of the season, partially torn his hamstring. The athletic trainer and the doctor that had worked with the team told him he would be out for eight weeks, which would be past the end of his senior season. This was extremely disappointing to both him and his team, as his senior year only happens once.
His father's friend referred him to us, and within the first two sessions, he was able to regain full range of motion through his hamstring with greatly reduced pain. Within one and a half weeks, he was able to skate again, and within two weeks, he played a full game without pain or reinjury. We continued on in the strengthening and rebalancing process, and he went on to have his most successful season as a goalie in his hockey career. Many teammates and people involved were dumbfounded at how quickly he could recover.
But the real secret was that his hamstring was not the source of the problem. His hamstring was where the problem ended up. The source of the problem was in his inner quad and adductors. When those areas were re-educated to engage properly, the hamstring was able to release the excess stress it was bearing in movement and then recover much more quickly and do its own natural work.
Speeding Up ACL Recovery
This same type of story repeats itself endlessly with people after ACL reconstructions, seeking to avoid muscle atrophy, muscle spasm, and the long and arduous recovery process to come back to a sport as intense as hockey.
Usually, it takes six months before people are skating with any degree of confidence and nine months before they are competing with any degree of confidence. Typically, we are able to achieve these same levels and far superior top-end levels of function within three and a half to four months to get athletes skating confidently and moving as though their injury was simply a bump in the road.
Addressing wear and tear in older hockey players
For the older recreational hockey players, dealing with years and years of wear and tear and their bodies not feeling as adaptable to the bumps and bruises of hockey, we have had great success in helping people stay in the game.
From small tweaks to the shoulders or to the knees, if we locate the areas of the body that the nervous system is trying to protect and work to reintegrate those back into all of the movement patterns, we can get people skating, changing direction, absorbing hits, and delivering hits with great confidence very quickly.
Transforming Movement Patterns for More Efficient Performance
Another area in which we have excelled with hockey athletes is working to change nonproductive movement patterns for greater efficiency. We had, for example, a female college athlete from a Division I school reach out to us because she felt that she was skilled and strong but not as quick or powerful as she felt she was capable of becoming.
Through working to locate areas that were under-contributing to her skating stride and her shot, as well as ingraining the ability to tolerate higher amounts of movement stress while maintaining good form, this athlete was able to decrease her goal line-to-blue line skating sprint by four seconds. To her coaches, this was unthinkable with her level of development. When an athlete is already 20 years old, they never expect to see her improve to that level.
Transitioning from Hockey to Other Sports: Retraining Movement Patterns
We have also worked with people who desire to compete in other sports to help them leave some of the hockey-specific movement patterns behind. We worked with a division one sprinter who had grown up playing hockey and felt as though they still ran like a hockey player by evaluating which areas were being overly dominant and which ones were not activating to the ideal and optimal level and working to retrain the movement patterns and ingrain the ability to hold the proper positions and fire muscles in an optimal fashion.
The neurological soft tissue therapy process allowed her to have significant personal bests in her next season in all of her races, including the 60 meter, the 100 meter, and the 200 meter. We are excited to see how she performs in her outdoor season.
Minimizing downtime in hockey injuries
Usually, people ask, "How much time do I need to take off from playing hockey?" This can change on a case-by-case basis. But oftentimes, we're able to get people back with minimal downtime because the work that we're doing is very efficient at getting everything to work together. This means that your vulnerabilities and injuries can get de-loaded from the stress that they're under.
So if someone injures their ankle or their hip and is told they need to take three weeks off, we can usually get them back to a high level in much less time. It might necessitate that they dial it back in practice for a few days, but usually our timeline is extremely abbreviated compared to the normal recovery timelines people are given.
Enhancing Concussion Recovery and Confidence for Hockey Athletes at All Levels
Concussions are another area of hockey that is all too frequent. We find that people recovering from concussions are often significantly inhibited in their movement through their upper body all the way into their hips, and their body is not processing stress. Well, it creates concussion symptoms when the rest of the body is stressed beyond what it perceives it can handle.
The neurological soft tissue therapy system facilitates the nervous system's communication with the rest of the body at a higher level of stress without eliciting concussion symptoms. Often, we are able to help people bridge back into being able to push themselves well in a much more efficient manner than simply the rest that is prescribed to most people.
We have helped dozens of hockey players with concussions get back to playing again with a high degree of confidence that not only are they truly back from their concussion, but they're also much better prepared to deliver and take the impacts that hockey produces because their body has been re-educated to use all of the proper muscles to do their proper jobs.
We have worked with all levels of hockey athletes on post-concussion return to play, from youth as young as nine to NHL players to older men and women.
Accelerating Recovery from Shoulder Injuries and Promoting Stability
Hockey creates a lot of impact in the shoulders and upper body as athletes crash into the boards and crash into each other in many circumstances. If the athlete sustains a separated shoulder, this means that there's a sprain to the AC joint in the top of the shoulder. When we have this situation, there are often many muscles around the shoulder that are overly guarded and others that are significantly shut down.
The neurological soft tissue therapy process serves to reset all of the behaviors in the muscles around the shoulder and deload any stress that is going through that AC joint at the top of the shoulder. This facilitates a much faster recovery from the AC joint sprain and helps the shoulder feel stable again very quickly.
Oftentimes, these are chronic issues that people develop and just learn to live with. We are able to take care of those extremely quickly and efficiently, working also to ingrain the new and productive movement patterns so that when people take impacts, they're distributing that impact throughout their whole body and not falling into garden movement patterns.