Maintaining shoulder health is an important part of a hockey player’s career. The risk of injury due to contact such as a body check is high and the fact that the shoulder is a very mobile joint increases the risk of non-contact injuries.

What is very interesting about the human body is how it informs us of dysfunction. Pain or discomfort in an area may actually be a referral from a different part of the body. The mistake many athletes make especially younger teenage athletes is pushing through these warning signs and not getting quality help from a hands-on therapist. In order to play through a healthy, long career in your sport you must take a preventative approach towards your Strength & Conditioning. This means being smart in how and when you train, taking adequate recovery and listening to warning signs.

This article is not meant to give you an at-home diagnosis. It is meant to give an extra push to the athlete who is ignoring the red flags and see a qualified therapist who can assess and diagnose so you can continue your path of smart training and a healthy career.

Let’s take a look at some quick assessments you could perform on yourself. If there is any pain or restriction please consult a therapist.

Cervical (neck) screen– Stand with feet together, teeth together and arms at your sides. Drop the chin to the chest. Can you touch? Is there pain? Look up to the ceiling, is there pain? Turn the head to the side. Does your chin meet mid clavicle (collar bone)? Can you then drop your chin to touch your clavicle without cheating by lifting the shoulder? Is there pain? Is there Symmetry left to right.

Neurological problems from the neck can refer to the shoulder without any pain or symptoms coming from the neck plus this can also reduce grip strength.

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The following 3 screens can be done on your own to recognize red flags for improper shoulder joint motion.

1. Place your hand on the opposite shoulder. Make sure the palm of your hand does not lift off the shoulder. Raise the elbow up. Is there pain or pinching on the shoulder?


2. Reach one arm across/in front of your chest. Is there pain or pinching?


3. With your arm at your side raise it up towards your ear. If you answered yes to pain or pinching to any of these impingement screens it is recommended you search out a therapist.

Another thing to look at is breathing.

How are you breathing? One simple test is by slightly pushing your fingers under the front of your rib cage, the fingers should push out on your inhale showing you are using the diaphragm for breath. If they don’t move at all you are most likely getting your breath from your chest/shoulders/neck.


Why is Breathing correct important? Incorrect breathing may lead to a number of dysfunctional patterns, if your breath comes from your chest/shoulders you may be setting yourself up for neck/shoulder issues. Also, if you are looking to increase strength through your workouts and you are a chest/shoulder breather throughout the day and expect to perform well during your workout these muscles simply will not have work capacity to last. They are fatigued from their work day of breathing. This means a weaker athlete. Correct breathing also helps to maintain functional thoracic spine mobility which is an important part in shoulder health.

You can take a closer look at Tspine mobility and symmetry (left and right rotation should look the same)

TO TEST – sit with a stick across the collar bone. Squeeze ball between knees and keep feet together to ensure range comes from the upper back. Rotate to the left and make a note of how far you are able to rotate. Check the right side. Do they look/feel the same? Does one direction feel restricted? Is there pain?


Again, it is important to note that this article is simply meant to give a little extra nudge to athletes who ignore red flags. Take the time to search out quality help from a qualified therapist who has the training to assess and diagnose. Playing through pain increases compensation patterns and in the end, could bring on more pain elsewhere. Train smart!

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Rhonda Catt

Rhonda Catt

Rhonda CattNASM, CPTFMS Level 2Owner of Catt Conditioning Performance Center/Excel FitnessVernon, BC Canada
Rhonda Catt


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