Top 3 Reasons Goalies Get Injured…

There have been a lot of NHL goalies getting injured so far this season. Some of them expected to miss months of the season. Last season we saw the Carey Price, arguably the NHL’s most consistent goalie miss essentially an entire season.

So it raises the question – – “Why do goalies get injured?” and the follow up question “what should I do so I DON’T get injured?”

Because they don’t stretch THIS muscle?

I wish it was as simple as missing one key stretch or exercise that would safeguard every goalie against injury. That would make your job (and my job) a lot easier.

But let me give you the top three reasons goalies get injured from my perspective. Someone else may have a completely different view that is equally valid. I will tell you this though, in the last 10+ years I have never had a goalie that has trained consistently under my supervision sustain a non-contact groin strain.

I am going to limit this discussion to non-contact injuries, because frankly if someone falls on your outstretched leg or plows into you and folds your hip and knee in ways they aren’t meant to fold, there is very little you can do about that.

Reason #1

You are not strategic.

If you are a goalie and you are plagued by injury season after season, the chances are you have not been strategic – – with anything. The way you stretch, the way you warm up, the way to do your physiotherapy, the way you strength training.

You have probably bounced from one idea to the next looking for a magic bullet that will do the trick.

It isn’t really your fault, you feel the time pressure to get back on the ice, so you need a fast fix. You just don’t realize that there is no fast fix. Just like climbing Mt. Everest. There is no short cut to the top. You can’t just hop in a helicopter and get to the top. You need to first trek to basecamp and then work your way up progressively higher and higher, with recovery periods at lower altitude.

Rehabbing injuries (and developing as an elite goaltender for that matter) is just the same. You need to assess where you currently are and then follow a plan to get you to the next step safely. Then a little time for your body to acclimate and get comfortable at that higher level before pushing up to the next challenge. And so it goes.

You need to take all the steps, not just the ones you like or a good at or challenge you. All of them.

Reason #2

You never looked after your little injury.

I heard it all the time – – “well, my hip did feel tight for about 3-months before the groin strain, but it’s not related to that”.

Oh, it’s not?

You may be right; it isn’t directly related. Your hip was feeling tight in the front and this strain is on the inside, so they can’t be related right?


Maybe the structures are not related, but the tightness in the front of your hip could have changed the way you use that hip – making you “work around” that stiffness and in the process putting more load on your adductors (which can also flex your hip) and ultimately putting them in a position to get strained.

So when something does not feel right. You notice your hip is stiff everyday getting out of bed. You notice your lower back on the left is tight after about 23-minutes on the ice.

Pay attention to those ‘non-injuries’ because they are telling you something is not right.

If you have fallen off your mobility program, then get back on it. If you just switched your skates, see if switching back to your old ones resolves the issue.

If you started a new workout, is there an exercise you struggle to maintain good form (or do you do an exercise even though you can’t keep perfect form)? Try leaving that one out for a week or two and see if it feels better.

If you cannot do anything to make it feel ‘normal’ again, go to a good sport physio or the health care provider you trust for helping with your sports injuries and get it assessed.

Reason #3

It happens.

If you are strategic and you do look after your little injuries, but still get injured, all I can say is “It happens.” Which isn’t all that enlightening, but it is true.

When I worked at the Fowler Kennedy Sport Medicine Clinic as the exercise specialist we would see athletes who did everything they were supposed to do. They would rehab their injuries (big and small) exactly by the book. They would work their way back onto the ice or field or court and… get injured again. Sometimes a completely different area of the body.

It seemed like nothing we did could spare them, we just hoped that their hard work had spared them from an even worse injury.

Sometimes there was an underlying issue that we found later – like a scoliosis (curvature of the spine) which affected their biomechanics.

For goalies – some of you just don’t have the hip structure to allow for the extreme ranges of motion the position requires.

I often suspected that some people had a slightly stiffer type of connective tissue which pre-disposed them to strains – – I have not seen research supported data on that.

So, just make sure you are being strategic with your training and preparation. That you are looking after little injuries before they become big injuries.

Bonus Reason

You think it is better because it doesn’t hurt at rest

I see this a lot in the off-season. A goalie will struggle through the end of a season with aches, pains and pinches. Then the season ends and he or she takes a couple weeks off – – and it doesn’t hurt. So instead of going to physio to get it sorted out, they think it is all better.

It feels good during the early off-season too. Lifting doesn’t hurt it, the mobility work feels good, even the agility drills are okay.

They you start getting on the ice and “OUCH” there it is again – – it came back!

It didn’t come back – it never left. You just chose to ignore it because it wasn’t giving you pain.

So unfortunately, injuries do happen, but these are the top three reasons I have seen in my career that contribute to one’s propensity to get injured with Reason #1 as the top contributing factor.  You cannot eliminate the risk, but you can drastically reduce it by avoiding these pitfalls.