Shoulder injuries are a serious concern for hockey players. More and more these days I’m seeing “high level” hockey players walk through our doors at Endeavor that strike me as shoulder injuries waiting to happen. This is one of my favorite pictures:
Note the hockey player on the far right.
If you notice, we’ve completely devolved back into having terrible posture. With most hockey players spending all day sitting (whether at school, watching tv, or stalking people on facebook), this posture of thoracic kyphosis (rounded upper back) and forward shoulders is becoming the norm. This is a SERIOUS problem for hockey players for two reasons:
1) An inability to extend at the thoracic spine (e.g. reverse this rounded curve) will limit rotation through this area. If you don’t believe, put your hands on each one of your shoulders and rotate as far as you can with your upper back hunched, then with your upper back extended as much as you possibly can. You’ll see that there is a significant difference in your ability to rotate through your upper spine. This has a number of performance implications, most visibly limiting your ability to generate rotational power while shooting.
Former BU and current Endeavor athlete Colby Cohen taking a slap shot.
I just assume this went in.
2) This rounded posture moves your shoulder blades out to the side which forces your shoulders forward (see guy on right below).
Do you see how his palms are almost facing backwards? This drastically increases your risk of suffering a shoulder dislocation. Imagine what would happen to that shoulder if a strong force was sent to his shoulder from a slightly backward angle. This happens almost every time a hockey player is hit from the side or into the boards (especially if the same side arm is raised to help “brace” for impact). In the middle picture, a hit from the side would result in the shoulder being pushed into the glenoid activity (shoulder socket), which could be absorbed by the entire upper body/rib cage. In contrast, the guy on the right would need to rely entirely on the long and weak posterior shoulder muscles, and the anterior glenohumeral ligaments.
I don’t know if this is really a hockey training tip or not, but one of the most effective ways to prevent shoulder injuries is to improve your posture. Creating and maintaining a good posture ensures appropriate balance in muscle length (and consequent strength) across the shoulder joint and creates more structurally stability to common hockey impacts. You don’t have to walk around with your chest puffed up like an idiot, but you should pay attention to how slouched you are throughout the day and make an effort to stand up and stretch out regularly.
One of the best ways you can reverse the sitting posture (and hockey posture for that matter) is through a common yoga position known as “lie on your stomach and push your chest off the ground”.
Doing this for 30s a few times a day and making a conscious effort to slouch less and be “taller” will help minimize your risk of shoulder injuries. Remember, you can’t out-do 23.75 hours of bad posture with 15 minutes of quality shoulder exercises.
Kevin has rapidly established himself as a leader in the field of physical preparation and sports science for ice hockey. He is currently the Head Performance Coach for the Boston Bruins, where he oversees all aspects of designing and implementing the team’s performance training program, as well as monitoring the players’ performance, workload and recovery. Prior to Boston, Kevin spent 2 years as an Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach for the San Jose Sharks after serving as the Director of Performance at Endeavor Sports Performance in Pitman, NJ. He also spent 5 years as a Strength and Conditioning Coach with USA Hockey’s Women’s Olympic Hockey Team, and has been an invited speaker at conferences hosted by the NHL, NSCA, and USA Hockey.