Playing goalie in hockey brings about some unique demands that other athletes do not experience.
The hips are an area that can really make or break performance as well.
Part of being a goalie requires the butterfly position, regardless of if it is their main position or not. At some point a goalie is going to have to make saves from the ice.
Getting into this position is usually grooved at an early age and the body adapts to the range of motion (ROM) needed.
A lot of times this does a lot of harm on the hip joint. If you need evidence of that look at all of the hip replacements/surgeries on young goaltenders.
Grinding on the Joint
The hip joint is a ball and socket joint which means that it is allowed to move freely in any direction.
The muscles are there to hold the joint in place and the labrum is where the hip meets the socket, allowing it to move without restriction.
When we lack mobility necessary to perform actions, like the butterfly, the body is going to find some way to get into that position. These compensation patterns are when injuries happen.
The action needed for the butterfly is internal rotation of the femur. This is not an action that most people have tons of ROM in to begin with. Forcing the body into this position is going to grind on the connective tissue of the joint.
The body may also adapt over time to this. Goalies I have tested out have a lot of internal rotation while having almost no external rotation.
Increasing Internal Rotation
For goalies that need to increase their internal rotation because it limits their ability to save pucks, most will look to static stretching.
These goalies should just start investing in a surgeon early, since their hip joint will probably be destroyed. Grinding away on the joint is not going end well for anyone.
Instead we can look to the core for help. The core is almost like the emergency brake for hip mobility. A weak core means that hip ROM will be limited.
The lateral core directly affects hip internal rotation.
Dean Somerset has a great video showing what I am talking about.
Young athletes in general have no core stability to speak of. Getting them to work on this will allow them to move better. It may also save a goalie from a life changing surgery.
Exercises to work on include: side planks, single arm DB carries, and Pallof presses.
Increasing External Rotation
Like I mentioned earlier, goalies typically are limited in their external rotation. Their sport requires them to in IR all day and they never get to ER.
Increasing total hip ROM can have injury prevention benefits. We do need to be careful about not grinding on the joint structure itself while getting more ER.
The anterior core is related to external rotation ability. Just like the video above working on the traditional “six pack” core will have benefits to ER.
Exercises to work on include: planks, rollouts, deadbugs, and body saws.
I also have found using lower body strength exercises important for increasing hip range of motion.
The lateral lunge is an exercise that gets the athlete moving side to side and requires external rotation of the femur. Goalies are not going to be able to drop it low into these right away but we can progress towards a lower position.
For the health of the hip we must work on core stability and then start to use the new found range of motion.
Do not grind on the hip joint and make these changes over time to stay healthy and improve performance.