Keeping The Power in Your Slapshot: Understand a Common Reason for Elbow Pain

Winter is upon us, which means it’s that time of year when amateur and recreational hockey players hit the ice!  Most players will leave their games or tournaments with good memories, but a few will be left nursing hockey injuries.  Due to the sport’s high speeds, rapid direction changes, and forceful impacts with the boards, ice, or even other players, it’s no surprise that injuries occur.  Although we usually think of shoulder and knee injuries when it comes to hockey, elbow injuries are common as well.

hockey injury to knee
hockey player taking a shot

What is Lateral Epicondylitis?

One common injury is lateral epicondylitis, commonly referred to as “tennis elbow,” although you don’t have to play tennis to have this problem!  Lateral epicondylitis is a term that describes inflammation of the muscles and tendons on the outside of the elbow.  Your lateral epicondyle is the bony prominence just above your elbow joint – you can find this on yourself by standing with your palm facing in front of you and bringing your other hand to touch the bony area just above the outside of the elbow crease.

The muscles that originate here play an essential role in stabilizing your wrist when swinging a racquet or shooting a puck.  Considering how often you make this movement in a hockey game, it is no surprise that these muscles are susceptible to overuse.

Usually, tennis elbow occurs over time due to overuse of the muscles that attach to the epicondyle.  Typically, people first notice tenderness and pain around their elbow.  Soon they may experience discomfort and even weakness when grasping objects, such as opening a jar.  Although it is most common in tennis players (hence the name!), it occurs in many athletes whose sport involves gripping an object tightly, such as a baseball bat, golf club, or hockey stick.

How to Test Yourself for Lateral Epicondylitis

If you have pain around your elbow, you can learn a simple test to determine if lateral epicondylitis is a potential cause.  Place your forearm and palm facing down on a table.  Lift your palm off the table and use your other hand to provide resistance to the back of your palm.  If this causes pain around the outside of your elbow, then you may have tennis elbow.  However, be sure to visit a physical therapist for a complete assessment – one test in isolation is not sufficient to diagnose this injury.

Treatment Options for Lateral Epicondylitis

There are many different options for treating tennis elbow.  Here at Innovation Physical Therapy, our physiotherapists will use a combination of treatment interventions like heat/ice, ultrasound, dry needling/ acupuncture, manual therapy, or temporary forearm straps and braces to reduce the pain and inflammation in your elbow.  Most importantly, your therapist will prescribe individualized stretching and strengthening exercises to address any muscular imbalance or poor movement patterns.

We understand how important hockey is to you, and our goal is to ultimately guide you in returning to sports or other activities that may have caused this injury as quickly as possible!

Book an Appointment Today!

If you suffer from elbow pain or any other issues, don’t hesitate to contact one of our five clinics throughout Edmonton, including RiverbendBelvedereNamao, or Southgate Centre.

 If you have any further questions, contact Innovation Physical Therapy today.  We’re here to help you, “Love Getting Better!”