Scott is also to be commended for his promotion of Strength and Conditioning for hockey - he has helped a lot of other great coaches in the business.
[ CB ] Hi Scott, and thanks for the interview. What in your professional and educational background prepared you for your job as a Strength Coach in the NHL?
SL: I have a BSc. in Exercise Science, specialization in Athletic Therapy. I certified as an AT (Athletic Therapist) in 1988 and certified with the NSCA as an S+C Specialist in 1990. I worked as both an AT and S+C coach in varsity athletics for nine years at the University level, and then entered the
NHL in 1998 with the
| What Does NSCA Stand For?
National Strength And Conditioning Association [link].
[ CB ] That is a great combination. So what are the most common injuries that you have to deal with in hockey?
SL: Lower quadrant
injuries are the most common in hockey; predominantly knee sprains, adductor strains, sometimes abdominal wall tears. In the upper quadrant, shoulder injuries and wrist injuries are the most common, usually impact related as in sprains and dislocations.
[ CB ] Our goal as strength and conditioning professionals is to help avoid injury. So what injuries are related to a lack of strength and conditioning and what injuries are more of a result from the game?
SL: I think a case can be made that they all have some relationship to fitness. If an athlete is fatigued, his balance and reaction time may be reduced, leaving him open to injury in the later stages of a game or the season.
Certainly muscle injuries can occur because of strength decrements, but I would say that the majority of them occur due to strength imbalances and flexibility imbalances caused by handedness, previous injuries, or improper training protocols and techniques.
[ CB ] Okay, now what strength and conditioning practices can you recommend to the readers to help them avoid hockey injuries?
SL: I would say that the best piece of advice to any athlete is to build a balanced body. Too many athletes concentrate on increasing performance numbers without paying attention to the imbalances they may be creating in their bodies.
For example, concentrating on pushing a big bench number for pre-season testing causes the development of a protracted shoulder girdle, which leads to possible impingement syndromes, or worse shoulder instability. This is just an example of myriad imbalances created by poor training protocols.
To View Shoulder Injuries Articles, Click Here.
[ CB ] Let's talk about proper training protocols. How long should an off-season program be? How many sessions should an athlete train each week?
SL: I guess the answer to this is "as long as you have available." It's difficult to limit it since we don't always know when the athlete will finish playing. I like to give my guys 2-3 weeks of active rest, and then get things going with a general conditioning phase that gets them back into
Click Image To Enlarge.
Hockey Is A Skills Game And Requires Flexibility,
Core Strength, Balance, & Single-Limb Strength.
I like a work week philosophy, Monday to Friday training, two days off for recovery and family or personal life. The 2-day rest really allows for adequate recovery to occur and solid training sessions during the week.
To View Sports Training Articles, Click Here.
[ CB ] Getting back to injury avoidance, are there any training methods that you would like players and athletes to avoid in the off-season?
SL: I actually think that in hockey max load, low repetition training is over-rated. I am also not a big fan of the big
football lifts like the
military press, or even a
power clean or
snatch. I am more of a believer in movements that isolate the limbs, stimulate the core, require flexibility (without compromise), and eventually stimulate balance.
Heavy lifting is highly over-rated in hockey. There is a limited relationship between what you squat, clean or bench, and how fast, agile, or explosive you are on the ice. Hockey is a skills game and it requires a great deal of flexibility, core strength, balance and single limb strength.
A greater focus should be placed on dissociation of the upper and lower body (trunk flexibility through rotation) and strength through rotation, single limb flexibility and strength, and balance. And then these properties should be shifted into power-oriented exercise like plyometrics and medicine ball training.
[ CB ] Before you even provide off-season training programs, what tests and exercises do you use for pre-season assessments of athletes?
SL: I like to do a movement screen examination on athletes who have had previous injury history. We don't always have time to do every athlete, but when we can, this type of evaluation can lead us to significant imbalances that need to be addressed during the season.
More importantly we screen all those athletes that have had recurrent injuries during a season, at the end of the season and recommend exercises to address these during their off-season program.
I am a big fan of on-ice testing and have been working for the past few years to get a coach to do this at the start of the year. This coming season may be the first in which this happens.
[ CB ] What is your general approach to in-season training for a healthy player?
SL: Generally I am an advocate of high
volume, low intensity training, full body programs that focus on the condition of the core. I give veteran players the latitude to train as they see fit, as long as they keep up with some type of regular program.
Rookies follow programs given by me and generally train twice per week. There just isn't enough time to do much more that this and there just isn't enough energy from the athlete in an 82-game season.
[ CB ] Any final tips on athletic preparation or rehab that you would like to add?
SL: Build from the core outwards, focus on
flexibility, and don't forget to train all the conditioning components of hockey fitness.
[ CB ] Thanks, Scott, for that refreshing look at training athletes. Good luck in the off-season with your athletes!