Thoughts on Upper-Crossed Syndrome in Ice Hockey

Dr. Janda’s Upper-Crossed Syndrome, classified as weak/inhibited deep neck flexors, lower traps and serratus along with tight/facilitated pectorals, upper traps and levator scapulae, is commonly seen in hockey populations. As a result of this you’ll find manyathletes have malpositioned cervical spine/thorax leading to ‘neck breathing’ and not allowing the diaphragm to work effectively, which leads to poor thoracic mobility and a compromised function of the scapula.

Upper Crossed Syndome

What does this mean for the hockey athlete?

Because of the hunched over position that hockey players find themselves in through the demands of the game, it is safe to say that many hockey players will present some, if not all of the signs of Janda’s Upper-Crossed Syndome.

And because of that, hockey players tend to have some cranky shoulders that can lead to both impingement and potential injuries to the shoulder while absorbing force on the ice.

What do we do to counteract these issues;

  • Daily Diaphragmatic Breathing: a lot can be gained by performing some simple diaphragmatic breathing on a daily basis.
  • Daily Thoracic Spine Mobility
  • Upper Body Pressing: as the season progresses we will perform less and less bench press with a straight bar and add in other variations that are more shoulder friendly like landmine presses, push ups, and 1DB bench press. Adding movements that are little more shoulder friendly can go a long way in keeping shoulders happy as the demands of a long hockey season take its toll on the athletes body.
  • Upper Body Pulling: our strength program would be considered imbalanced in the sense that we always perform more sets/reps of upper body pulling (chin ups, rows, etc.) then we do pushing (bench, overhead press, etc.) to try to create more balance across the upper body. Generally speaking I would say that having a balanced program is ideal, but in this situation we have found creating a little bit of an unbalanced program has worked well in keeping our athletes shoulders healthy.

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