Hockey is a sport that requires a special skillset to be successful.
Just like any sport there are certain movements that hockey players must possess during normal gameplay.
In order to skate well, hockey players must get into a good position. This position consists of a deep knee bend, hips back, and chest up.
When these athletes lack good movement, this skating position may not be possible for them. Reduced range of motion in these joints can lead to a tall skating position and slower speed. A coach can put the athletes through all types of conditioning or power skating but there will be no results.
These alternative methods do not address the initial issue: the athletes are not capable of getting into these positions.
Some basic assessments can determine if hockey players lack the mobility to get into certain positions. This assessment is really only effective after an athlete does not respond to learning the proper patterns. An athlete that struggles to get into a good position could be experiencing movement restrictions.
- Ankle Mobility
Ankle mobility is an idea that seems insignificant since the foot is locked in the skate boot. This couldn’t be more wrong.
The tongue of the skate allows the ankle to move in one direction. When the toes come closer to the shin it is called dorsiflexion and it is necessary for good skating.
An ankle with adequate mobility allows the knees to bend and hips to sit back more. A lack of mobility would restrict this position and result in taller skating.
To set up for this assessment, we need to kneel on one leg with the other foot in front of the body. The front foot should be 4 inches away from a wall or box. The goal is to push the knee forward and over the smaller toes to touch the wall. 4+ inches would indicate good mobility.
The rockback is an important tool for determining range of motion in the hip from an unloaded position.
This is a good screen to determine if there are restrictions that could lead to further problems. Something like FAI, can be pre-screened with this test.
To perform the rockback, get on all fours. The knees should be about hip width and the feet should in line with the knees. If the feet are closer to the body than the knees then the test will not be accurate since more room has been made in the hip capsule.
While maintaining a neutral spine, push the hips back as far as possible. If the back rounds, go back to the point before rounding.
If the hips can get to or past parallel then they have enough range of motion to get to a low skating position.
- Lateral Lunge Balance
The first two tests were more on the range of motion side of things and this one is closer to the strength side. It does require hip and ankle mobility as well.
To test this out, we must get into a lateral lunge position and hold it. Pick the straight leg off of the ground and hold for 15 seconds.
If this position can be held for 15 seconds then the appropriate stability is present to hold a low skating position. If the athlete cannot hold the lunge, then there are some strength and stability issues to address.
For hockey players that struggle with getting into a good skating position, the problem may lie in movement. The athlete may not even be able to get into that position.
Passing these assessments does not guarantee successful skating, but not doing well provides valuable information about the athlete’s ability to move.