Femoroacetabular Impingement in Ice Hockey Goaltenders

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Team: Michigan Performance Research Laboratory

Summary: Hip injuries are a growing issue in high school, collegiate, and professional sports. Femoroacetabular impingement (FAI) is a common orthopaedic condition that often underlies these injures. Preventing FAI has proven difficult thus far, as little is known about how the condition develops. Additionally, invasive surgery is accepted as the optimal treatment method, requiring considerable expense and a lengthy rehabilitation period. In order to enhance prevention, treatment, and rehabilitation programs, it is essential to acquire a more thorough understanding of FAI. To do so, the Michigan Performance Research Laboratory examined the biomechanics of elite Division I and professional athletes from sports with a high incidence of FAI (hockey and baseball) while they perform on-ice/on-field game-like movements. Wearable sensors worn underneath the player’s standard equipment measured precise body motions in the trunk and lower limbs during the tasks, providing the first comprehensive database of hip function in a high-risk FAI population. Additionally, radiological scans of each athlete’s hips were used to determine how the structural features of the hip influence movement during dynamic tasks.

The in-vivo hip mechanics were evaluated in two athletic populations at-risk for FAI: (1) elite ice hockey goaltenders as they performed on-ice game-like drills, and (2) NCAA baseball pitchers as they threw their full pitching repertoire in their practice facility.

In ice hockey goaltenders, the lab team found:

  • The stopping motion, to which little attention has been given, produces greater hip motion than the butterfly.
  • This suggests that multiple postures must be considered when treating and preventing FAI and may explain why skaters also experience FAI.
  • X-ray hip measures were poor predictors of on-ice hip motion.
  • All hips examined exhibited alpha angles (an x-ray indicator of FAI) that were above the FAI threshold but only one was symptomatic.
  • Evaluating the athlete in a more realistic environment reveals novel and potentially more valuable findings that static examination.