If you have ever trained hockey players, you will no doubt know that these athletes have distinct early sprinting mechanics.
Many possible factors may contribute to this biomechanical presentation, from overloaded lumbar extensors and an anterior pelvic tilt to stiffened posterior chains and external hip rotators. However, one thing I have failed to extensively consider until know was the effect of skating mechanics to sprinting mechanics.
Looking closely at one of Endeavor's hockey players above (the athlete on the right), you will notice a distinct eversion of the calcaneus and external rotation of the tibia that is not uncommon in this population while sprinting.
Likely a mechanical adaptation through many years spent on the ice, hockey players must utilize increased external rotation of the hip and tibia to compensate for decreased calcaneal eversion secondary to restrictions from the utilization of skates (both skating mechanics and wearing a boot) on the ice.
As Frans Bosch states in his book,
"Skaters cannot rotate on the blades of their skates, and consequently must avoid everting the heel during push off. They cannot make use of the possibility for lateral rotation in the lower leg because it will be impossible to develop medial rotation which is needed during pushoff. In order to direct sufficient force of thrust toward the rear during the start, the foot must still be everted as it is placed on the surface. To solve this, the skater will begin by rotating the hip strongly laterally so that the knee is pointing further outward during the first part of the start than is customary for the runner".
The way I see it - and I'm open to be corrected as this is merely a hypothesis - players have adapted in a manner whereby through the advantage of utilizing increased hip external rotation on the ice, they subsequently have a decreased ability to control the eccentric forces in eversion/dorsi-flexion during the early phases of sprinting - resulting in overload in the deep compartment of the medial lower leg.
While this adaptation may not result in foot and ankle dysfunctions for some, because many young hockey players sprint during dryland training and / or take up other sports in the off-season or when they retire, it is not uncommon for them to experience lower leg overuse injuries.
Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome and Tibial Stress Fractures are two such injuries.
So what can we do about it to better control eversion and subsequently prevent injuries?
My suggestions are as follows:
Again, the above is merely a hypothesis and I will admit that I have yet to look deeply into the research to investigate whether or not this has been researched. But to me it makes sense and for now, I am going to run with it.
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