Kevin Neeld — Hockey Training, Sports Performance, & Sports Science

Sports Performance Random Thoughts

Although I often feel like I’m rambling, these “random thoughts” posts have become among the more popular on my site. Today’s post covers a few of my thoughts on wide range of topics from injury prevention to long-term athletic development, and includes some new research updates. If you find one (or all) of these points interesting, please share this post with your friends!

  1. Since the release of my new DVD set Optimizing Movement, I’ve been explaining the difference a lot between corrective exercise and a corrective approach. In a perfect world, I think every athlete should go through an assessment that provides a movement and performance profile of the athlete, and the athlete should receive a program that considers these findings, their goals, their stage in development, their injury history, their training history, and their current training availability/commitment. That said, one of the major goals of movement screening is to prequalify or disqualify certain movements/exercises for any given athlete. If you’re an astute observer of movement, I think you can do a lot of good by replacing certain exercises or altering how an exercise is performed based on the needs of the individual. In my experience, knowing what NOT to do with certain people is one of the biggest keys to keeping everyone healthy.
  2. Related to the above idea, my philosophy on ensuring that no one gets hurt during the training process is one I’ve borrowed from Mike Boyle, which I believe is heavily influenced by his experience working with pro athletes. Naturally, when there are literally millions of dollars on the line (and an athlete’s career), it’s EXTREMELY important that you weigh the risk:reward ratio of every component of your program. That said, this idea doesn’t only apply to professional athletes. From a programming standpoint, you can push a little hard and be a little “riskier” with youth athletes, but it’s still important to weigh the risks of any given training method. Athletic development takes THOUSANDS of hours of focused practice to develop and refine skill sets, the ability to read, anticipate, and react to the play, and to develop the athleticism necessary to compete at higher levels. The bottom line is that if an athlete is sidelined with an injury, they can’t develop. This is a major reason why I think many of the training methods used by high school athletes, despite getting “results”, aren’t optimal. Short-term gains are achieved at the expense of short- and long-term durability. If you had two methods to achieve the same results and one had negligible injury risk and the other had a track record of leading to nagging injuries in a significant proportion of the people using that method, wouldn’t you want to choose the safer one? …Say yes.
  3. Over the last few weeks, Matt Siniscalchi and I have been testing all of the players in a youth soccer organization. Between the two of us we’ve also tested hundreds of youth hockey players and a ton of athletes and “weekend warriors” across a wide range of ages and athletic abilities. One of the things that has really jumped out at me throughout this process is how common ankle mobility restrictions are, even at the youngest ages. We regularly see athletes that can’t reach 0 inches of dorsiflexion in the test we use; in other words, they can’t shift their knee forward to even pass their big toe without their heel coming up. There are a lot of reasons why someone may have limited ankle mobility, but I think two things will become apparent over time: 1) We need to put a much greater focus on ankle mobility work in our programs (even more than we do now); 2) More information will come out demonstrating structural differences in ankle anatomy and how the stresses we do or do not place across the joint can lead to progressive structural changes that further limit ankle range of motion. Just as we see an increased attention paid to Femoroacetabular Impingement (FAI) at the hip, I think we’ll see more information about how similar adaptations occur at the ankle, and at the shoulder.
  4. I haven’t read this full study, but after reading the abstract, I believe this is further evidence for progressive limitations (and probably structural changes) in hip range of motion consistent with FAI, but this time in female soccer players (instead of hockey players, which has been the major focus of this research up to this point). Check it out here: Abnormal hip physical examination findings in asymptomatic female soccer athletes
  5. Increasing alpha angle is predictive of athletic-related “hip” and “groin” pain in collegiate National Football League prospects. This was a study I mentioned in my presentation at the Boston Sports Medicine and Performance Group Summer Seminar last year. Interestingly, 90% of the players and 87% of the hips included in this study had a finding consistent with FAI, with the more progressive cases being more likely to cause symptoms. In this case, the target population was NFL prospects playing college football. See the trend here? It’s important to be on the lookout for these adaptations in ALL athletes.
  6. Adductor squeeze test values and hip joint range of motion in Gaelic football athletes with longstanding groin pain. This study builds on research now over a decade old from Timothy Tyler’s group suggesting that adductor weakness may be a risk factor for groin pain. Anecdotally, I’ve seen others and have personally treated cases where the athlete presents with pain and when they squeeze something between their knees, it’s weak, shaky, and often painful. While it may be easy to conclude that the weakness is causing the shakiness and is an underlying factor of pain, the interesting thing is that in many of these cases, doing something to improve the alignment/positioning of the pelvic ring (SI Joint around through the pubic symphysis) and following it up with some basic activation work often reduces the pain, restores strength, and gets rid of the shakiness. In these cases, weakness is the result of inhibition, not demonstrative of a lack of strength. Remove the inhibition (which could be caused by a slight alignment issue) and strength restores. I have seen cases where weakness persists and consistently doing some basic strengthening work helps get the athlete over the nagging injury that has bothered them for several months in some cases, but these cases seem to be less frequent than the inhibition-based weakness ones.
  7. As a culture, I think we overstretch hamstrings and groins, and under stretch glutes and quads. This is likely the result of the standing toe touch or sit and reach test being used as the primary bench mark of flexibility and a general lack of understanding that there is a range of optimal flexibility below OR ABOVE which problems are more likely to occur. Everyone should be able to touch their toes; it’s not necessary and in fact is detrimental to be able to palm the floor.
  8. After spending ~50-60 hours in a training facility each week for the past 5 years, I’m starting to appreciate training to quieter music. We listen almost exclusively to Pandora channels at our facility, so it’s nice to get a break from techno, rap, and hard rock for an hour or so each day. Miguel Aragaoncillo turned me on to Nujabes Radio, which has a lot of good instrumentals, and we’ve been listening to a lot of Clint Mansell Radio, who did the music for Requiem For A Dream, but the station also plays a lot of Hans Zimmer, who did the music for Inception. It’s a nice change of pace for sure!
  9. Speaking of Miguel, he recently wrote a great post highlighting an exercise we’ve been using in a lot of our programs recently. I’ve been programming quadruped exercises since Day 1, but these crawling variations make the core stress a bit more dynamic. There is a great perturbation variation at the end of the first video in Miguel’s post. Check it out here: Core Exercises You’re Not Doing: Bear Crawls
  10. One of the most frustrating realities of athletic development is that the link between early and future successes is not strong. Simply, you cannot predict whether an athlete will be successful when they’re older based on how they perform at younger ages. This is especially true during the 8-16 time span, where all hell breaks loose as kids develop different systems at extremely different rates compared to their peers. If you’re a parent, be patient and support your kids’ passions. If you’re a coach, teach and reward positive behaviors and attitudes, not outcomes.

That’s a wrap for today. If you have any questions/comments, please feel free to post them below.

To your success,

Kevin Neeld

P.S. If you haven’t signed up, for FREE, for the 2014 Sports Rehab to Sports Performance Teleseminar, do it now here: Sports Rehab to Sports Performance Teleseminar

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Kevin Neeld

Kevin Neeld Knows Hockey

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.