You have a great physio for hockey if…

I get asked a lot of injury questions, probably because I spent the five years after completing my Master’s degree working at one of the top sport medicine clinics in Canada.  It’s where I developed my somewhat unique perspective on athlete training.

I had a good chance to see which sport physios got great results for their athletes and which ones didn’t, so this is where I am coming from.

When someone emails me a question about an injury that they have, unless it is a hang-nail, I pretty much always ask them if they have a great sport physio.  I want to make sure you actually know what to look for when you are searching for the physio that you are going to put on your ‘performance team’.

Here’s What Makes A Great Physio For Hockey…

When they assess your injury, do they look at different areas.  For example, if you go in with a groin strain, do they look at your hip, but also your back, your knee and even your ankle?  Often pain caused in one area can be due to a dysfunctional pattern in a completely different area.  So they should not just be assessing the pain.

Do they do a re-check every time you see them or do they have you go through the same old exercises and then hook you up to the muscle stim and give you an ice pack.  That is trying to make your pain go away, rather than trying to solve the issue that is giving you the pain.

In the early stages, if you had an acute injury like a groin strain, this is a prudent treatment, getting rid of the pain and swelling is a primary objective, but if this persists beyond the initial inflammatory period, beware.

Finishing a good treatment and therapeutic exercise routine with ice and stim is fine, but it should not constitute the bulk of the treatment after the first week or two.

Does your physio think you are all better when the pain is gone?  I hated this when I worked at the clinic, a hockey player with a groin strain would be pain free, could stretch pain free, could walk pain free and even run in a straight line, so they were good to go – cured!

Then the player gets back on the ice makes a quick change of direction on the ice and ‘ting’ tweaks it again.

Don’t get me wrong, these things happen, but by putting the hockey player thorough some pretty aggressive movement drills in the clinic, the physio and player can get a better appreciate for their readiness to return.

Does the physio do the same thing for the same problem over and over even though the pain is not going away or it keeps coming back?  One of the physios I worked with used to say ‘if you had a tooth ache and you went to the dentist every week for 10 weeks and it was still sore, would you think maybe you need a new dentist?’  Something like that anyway, makes sense.

If you are not getting better or you keep getting the same injury over and over again, does your physio refer you to a colleague for a second opinion or do they bring in another physio or health care provider to have a look?

Not every professional is perfect, but the sign of a true pro is someone who knows when to ask for help.  The physio, Brian Gastaldi, who shares a space in the Revolution Studio has worked with some of the best athletes in the world as he has been selected several times to be one a physiotherapist at Olympic Games all over the world.  I see him on very regular basis consult with fellow physios or other health care professionals when a patient is not having the expected recovery.

At some point your physio needs to be active, you are a hockey player.  You are trying to get back to the most dynamic sport in the world that is played on an unstable surface (just to make it that much harder), passive treatment is not going to be enough to give you your best chance of recovery.  If you do not leave the physio clinic at some point feeling like you just had a great workout, then I would consider looking around for another option.

Where to look for a great physio for hockey…

So that gives you an idea of what to look for.  If you are wondering where to look, start by asking friends who are also athletes and teammates.  Where did they go?  Did they get better?  Did the physio seem to understand hockey (not essential, because you are really paying them because they know the body)?

If you cannot get a good referral then I would suggest looking at the local College or University – their varsity athletes need to get treated somewhere, where do they go?  If you live where there is a local elite hockey team, like Junior A, find out who provides their treatment.

Be a little careful with that one though because in some cases the team hires the cheap option and in other cases the teams may even get paid by a clinic or physio for the right to work with the team and advertise as such.

I hope that helps point you in the right direction.  Injuries are a part of sport and all you can do is strive to reduce the risk of getting one and maximize your recovery if you do get one.


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