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  • Writer's picture@healthyhurworth

Hockey and sports massage

Being a hockey player I realise the demands the game makes on the body. Position of the body is key to take pressure off the back. If glutes (the butt muscles), quads (muscles at front of thigh) and hamstrings (muscles at back of thigh) are not performing, or limited in their range of motions the lower back can feel the strain. If the lower back becomes tight this has a knock on effect on the pelvis, hips and legs, the hockey cycle of aches and pains.

The sooner habits are in place that condition the body to function in its sport, whether that be hockey, tennis, golf, running, rugby, football, skiing, the sooner aches and pains are reduced, injuries less likely and longevity in the sport is increased. Of course this doesn't avoid the inevitable injuries that can occur during the game such as twisted ankles and knees, the odd black eye, squished finger or ball shaped bruise somewhere on the body.

Warming down is vital too. When we're younger the need to warm down seems superfluous. As we get older the need to warm down is essential to minimise the strain of the game on our bodies. When I watched a netball international the teams warmed down after the match for about 45 minutes (that's like a whole other workout for me :))

Sports massage therapy can assess which muscles are functioning as they should, where there is tightness and muscular imbalances leading to muscle soreness and potential strains or sprains. Tension as a result of weak or tired muscles can be released using muscle energy techniques, trigger point therapy and resisted stretching.

Sports massage can help relieve tired muscles flushing out waste products generated during a game or training helping the body recover more quickly.

The legs and glutes in particular can be flushed through after a match to reduce muscle soreness and assisted stretching can be incorporated to maintain muscle length and joint mobility and range of movement. We all know the impact stiff muscles have on the way we move, particularly up and down stairs or in and out of a seat, along with a few groans to acknowledge the effort involved.

If you are injury free a regular maintenance massage will keep muscles in good condition and spot any potential issues before they get any worse.

That said I have been one of the oldest in my hockey team by nearly 20 years (no comments please) for the last couple of seasons and what I have noticed is the amount of hockey the juniors are playing at school and club. This combined with the 'gadget' climate and desk bound homework is taking its toll on their bodies. Going from very stationary to very active, full on running around with little or no warm up or down is resulting in sore muscles, tight lower backs, dodgy knees, rounded shoulders, stiff hips to mention but a few. Just as sports massage is not just for athletes it is also not just for adults. More and more I see teenagers needing treatment.

One common area of pain is the piriformis muscle which runs under the butt muscles. This is a relatively small muscle which can become tight if your sport involves lots of lunging or if the large butt muscles are not working as they should. The piriformis can impinge the sciatic nerve and result in sharp pain in the butt and down the leg. Sports massage and some trigger point therapy can be carried out on the area to release the tension. If you haven't experienced this treatment it can be painful but the benefits and relief can be instant, particularly if caught early. One or two treatments can relieve symptoms.

Low back pain is also common with several muscles at play. Low back pain can be eased with massage and some resisted stretching of the muscles around the area such as the hip flexors, hamstrings and quads.

Tips to prevent injuries include:

Wear your personal protective gear - mouth guard, shin pads, gloves etc

Ensure your body is properly hydrated and fuelled for your sport and training

Preseason - gradually increase the frequency, intensity, and duration of training to avoid overuse injuries. Always warm down

Don't focus on one aspect, combine cardiovascular, strength, flexibility, and skills training

Rest - recovery time is important to avoid burnout and repetitive use type injuries. Getting enough sleep allows the body to recover and rebuild muscles

Don't play through pain, only play if pain free. If injured after the acute phase (24-48h usually) it is key to keep moving but in a pain free range and gradually build up your activity level.

Self care stretches and mobilisations to prevent injury

Carry out mobilisations for at least 30s - cat-cow, hip circles, leg swings

Hold stretches for at least 30s - quads, hip flexors, hamstrings, calves

Low back & piriformis - child's pose, prone knee to chest, knee to opposite shoulder

Top tip: wear compression socks if you are prone to calf strains or cramps. Compression socks can be worn during a game or put on after a game to help muscles recover

Hip strengthening: stand on 1 leg for at least 1 minute and then repeat on the other side. If this is easy try it with eyes shut.

This is a great exercise for general hip and ankle stability, strengthening and proprioception (the ability to sense stimuli arising within the body regarding position, motion, and equilibrium).

Self care for acute muscle strain - the MICE (used to be RICE) protocol

Movement - Some initial rest of the injured area may be necessary, especially if movement causes a dramatic increase in pain. Generally a rest period would be anywhere from 24 - 72 hours depending on the severity of the strain. Too much rest however can prolong the healing process. This is why we are now encouraged to think of MICE (movement) rather than rest. Encourage gentle use of the affected muscle group, taking care not to overdo it.

Ice - Apply ice immediately after injuring a muscle to minimise swelling and decrease pain. Do not put ice directly on the skin—use an ice pack or wrap ice in a towel. Apply for about 15 minutes. Repeat every hour on the first day. For the next several days, apply ice about every four hours.

Compression - To reduce swelling, wrap the affected area with an elastic bandage until swelling comes down.

Elevate - Whenever possible keep the injured muscle raised above the level of the heart.

As always if you need any advice please call Mandy: 07747 722 171 or book online


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