Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Hockey Injuries: What's wrong with this picture?


Is it the NHL’s new Injury Policy or the Injuries themselves that are the problem?

I listened to XM’s Home Ice all day for the last few days. For some reason, I could not turn it off. Many of the commentators were talking about the amount of injuries that are already being “reported,” or not reported, as the case may be.

I’m less concerned about being able to get the details of the injuries and more concerned with the occurrence. There are too many. I tried to piece together the injuries on other teams, but couldn’t get past just four days worth of NHL.com headlines. I gave up.

Let’s suffice it to say that we are not the only club who is experiencing injuries, but it may seem that way since some of the injuries hinted at concern players that had injuries last season. I’m thinking Jon Sim is saying a novena in his stall every day he hits the ice. He lost an entire year of his career because of injury. I’m certain he doesn’t want a repeat performance. He played less than two full games last season.

Chris Campoli, although reported from Ice Works that “he seemed okay,” and “didn’t seem depressed” has GOT to be thinking “Oh No! Not again.”

However, the most telling quote about the situation comes from Greg Logan’s Newsday article today direct from Scott Gordon:

"I was taken aback by the amount of hip flexor and groin issues because it never was an issue for me before. It seemed to really target the guys who were here last year.”

Ya think?

How many times did I say aloud “I hope Teddy skates them till they puke!” after a horrendous loss? I was not being sadistic, it is just a Herb Brooks reference to work them beyond their limits and turn them into winners. Guess what? Ted never did. He could never channel Herb Brooks and that level of intensity. I think Gordon is going to try, and he's going to have his hands full.

Hockey is no longer a game for the unfit. Twenty-five years ago hockey was played by men who spent their summers working on farms, drinking beer and eating pizza. Now they spend their summers hitting the gym and making sure, they come to camp in September in better shape than they did the last September. Maybe they are just expecting too much from the human body and from modern science.

But are the players taking training just a bit too far? Can it be that all the summer training is breaking down their bodies rather than building them up? This is really the debate at hand. Hockey is grueling. The schedule doesn’t leave much time for a body to heal. Should they really only be taking a few weeks off, if they do that at all? We could explain away the injuries by saying “it’s a young man’s game.” We could, if it were only the seasoned vets hobbling out of training camp. It’s not.

Also in Logan's article, according to Gordon, it’s not anyone’s fault.

“It’s just a different style. The guys that weren’t here last year were better able to handle the type of practices we had.”
Uh… Sorry. THAT sounds like that COULD be someone’s fault.

So what’s wrong here? The players? The training? The trainers? The doctors? The policy? Uh… all of the above? Maybe we expect too much from the human body. How many players had multiple operations at the end of last season? Yet we’re supposed to believe they should be 100% in a matter of weeks. Is that humanly possible? I had one operation in my life and the scar tissue bothered me for over a year. I would wince in pain every time it rained. (Weird, but true.)
Are the players taking training just a bit too far? Can it be that all the summer training is breaking down their bodies rather than building them up? This is really the debate at hand. Hockey is grueling. The schedule doesn’t leave much time for a body to heal. Should they really only be taking a few weeks off, if they do that at all? We could explain away the injuries by saying “it’s a young man’s game.” We could, if it were only the seasoned vets who are hobbling out of training camp. It’s not.

Maybe they push themselves too hard because they know with only a little over 700 jobs in the league, there is always someone waiting in the wings to take their place. On Monday afternoon, one of those waiting in the wings was one Thomas Pock. Moreover, he has a one-way contract.
For some reason, the phrase “TAG! You’re IT!” comes to mind. By the end of last season, I wasn’t even sure who was on the ice. The Bridgeport connection was playing four and five back-to-back games. They didn’t even know where they were going. It’s not even October yet. We may be starting the same way we ended.

Maybe we should focus on the problem and not the policy.

2 comments:

Justin Marques said...

Well said Dee. You really picked up extremely well on that comment by Gordon, and that was something I noticed as well. This policy is absolutely terrible for the fans of the game, and its going to keep us wondering why players such as Thomas Pock are playing in the orange and blue sweater. However, if we take it for what it's worth, a pulled groin usually keeps a player out 3-6 weeks. What happens upon the return of Sutton and Campoli, considering Pock has a one-way contract? Anyway, great read as always!

Coach Kim said...

Lack of injury reporting is epidemic at every level of hockey and I think the NHL's new Injury Policy is definitely a step in the right direction.

Hockey players have always seen "playing hurt" as being a badge of honor - I played at least 1/4 of all my games in college with injuries that should have kept me off the ice, but I kept them quiet. I think a lot of young players out there see the NHL players playing through the pain and think that they need to do the same.

Most teams, both minor and professional, suffer from a high incidence of groin and hip flexor injuries at the beginning of the season. At the minor league level, this is mostly due to a complete lack of proper off-season training. At the professional level, it is often a case of doing too much too soon. Their "skating muscles" don't have enough time to adapt to the high workload they must endure.

Coaches at both the professional and minor league level must understand that getting those "skating muscles" in shape takes time and that pushing players through incredibly intense skating sessions right out of the gate (in a desperate attempt to get the team in "hockey shape" fast) will ultimately do more harm than good.