Protect Yourself from the Most Common Shoulder Injury in Hockey


Hockey season is just getting underway again for another season. What makes hockey so much fun to watch and play is how dynamic it is. High speed, quick directional changes and potential collisions with other players, the boards and often the ice. It’s no wonder that so many injuries occur each season. A recent study on hockey injuries revealed that the acromio-clavicular jointor the “AC” joint is the most common upper body injury in hockey. In fact 51% of all upper body hockey injuries were AC joint sprains .

Understanding an AC Joint Injury

The AC joint is the meeting place of the clavicle (collar bone) and scapula (shoulder blade). You can feel it by sliding your fingers out along your collar bone until you feel a bony bump near the edge of your shoulder. There are four ligaments that hold these two bones together.

An AC joint injury, which is often referred to as a “separated shoulder” usually occurs after a fall onto the shoulder or a forceful impact with another object or person. Both of these can occur many times in a game of hockey. These types of injuries are common in athletes and represent 40-50% of all shoulder injuries in contact sports including hockey. This force injures the ligaments that stabilize this part of your shoulder and causes the “separation” of the joint to occur. A minor AC joint injury may involve rest and physiotherapy while a more serious injury could require surgery followed by physical therapy.

Our Top 4 Recommendations to Prevent Shoulder Injuries in Hockey:

There are some foundational ways that you can prevent an AC joint shoulder injury. Here are some of our top recommendations on ways to prevent this type of shoulder injury:

1) Improve Alignment of Your Shoulder

Poor posture puts some of your shoulder muscles on a constant stretch and makes it difficult for others to ‘fire’. This makes your shoulder complex more vulnerable to injuries.

2) Get Your Serratus Anterior Muscle Working Better

Maintaining healthy biomechanics of the shoulder girdle and particularly the function of serratus anterior. This small muscle that originates on the surface of the first eight ribs is small but is extremely important for the health of the shoulder complex. Check out the video below for a demonstration of a great exercise called the Push-Up Plus to strengthen your serratus anterior muscle.

3) Strengthen Your Rotator Cuff Muscles

Don’t forget about the often forgotten rotator cuff muscles. Often with gym strengthening we focus on the bigger and more visible deltoid muscles, but the rotator cuff (a group of 4 smaller muscles) is important to strengthen as well. The rotator cuff is a very important key to keeping the shoulder joint stable and is important for athletes in all types of sports to prevent injuries. The video below shows a few variations of strengthening the rotator cuff muscles:

4) Wearing appropriate protective equipment

Wearing properly fitting protective equipment during both practice and game play is important. It can be easy to think we can get away with protective gear that is a size or two off. Make sure that you check your gear before the start of this season to make sure your shoulders are well protected. This is even more important if you’ve experienced shoulder injuries in the past.

Closing Thoughts

Go grab your skates and your hockey gear and enjoy getting on the ice again. Here at Leduc Physiotherapy we’re here ready to help identify any potential shoulder issues that could hold you back from your best season yet. And we’re here in case you end up experiencing an injury.

To book an evaluation of your shoulders call our clinic at (780)  980-5443.