SCL Tigers in great shape through targeted training

SCL Tigers are currently one of Switzerland's strongest ice hockey teams – but targeted strength and endurance training is not the only factor in their success. After a strenuous match, it's very important for the players to have the time they need to regenerate sufficiently before they next take to the rink. And Kistler's Quattro Jump performance analysis system provides them with effective support to do just that.

Like bullets fired from a gun, the players race over the ice at breathtaking speed as they chase the puck. Sudden changes of direction, daredevil maneuvers and spectacular checks add to the thrills as athletes weighing 100 kilos or more collide with one another or crash into the boards. Physical confrontations are also part of the game. Ice hockey is probably the world's fastest team sport – and the one that demands most energy. Players are virtually bound to sustain injuries, even though they wear heavyduty protective gear and substitutions are carefully phased. 

If statistics are to be believed, 80% of injuries sustained by players during matches are acute traumas such as bruises, and 20% of such injuries are due to overload. Because this sport drains the players of so much energy, it is important for them to regenerate sufficiently before their next match – even if they have not been injured. Since it is known that specific muscle fatigue significantly increases the risk of injuries, the athlete may need to shift down a gear and give the muscles time to fully regenerate.

Dynamics in ice hockey - risk of injury

Keep going! Also in summer, ice hockey players have to keep a high training intensity.

Tigers on top form

SCL Tigers of Langnau only returned to the top tier of the Swiss national hockey league in 2015, and they have continued to perform amazingly well throughout the current season. Nik Hess, SCL Tigers' athletics trainer, is responsible for making sure that this trend continues. As team coach since summer 2013, his responsibilities include rehabilitation training for injured players. Hess also works for the Swiss Ice Hockey Federation (SIHF), the supraregional association that promotes ice hockey in Switzerland. At the SIHF, he is in charge of performance analysis for the national team – and it was through this work that he became familiar with Kistler's products. Hess is currently working on a reference value that can be used to measure the performance potential of ice hockey players. The power-to-weight ratio provides meaningful information about this – some SCL Tigers players manage to achieve as much as 75 W/kg.

"Thanks to the force plates, we can prevent injuries because we can detect muscle fatigue at an early stage, and then we can adapt the athlete's training as appropriate."

Nik Hess, Athletics Trainer of SCL Tigers as well as Swiss National Team Coach

Regeneration for fatigued muscles

Hess views Kistler's Quattro Jump force plate system as the ideal instrument to deliver precise insights into his athletes' fundamental performance parameters. Efficient and closely monitored performance tests help him to arrive at an objective assessment of individual performance capability – a valuable basis for improving coordination of the training and regeneration phases for his athletes so they are better able to achieve their individual development goals. 'Ice hockey is very much a body-focused sport that demands speed and power, so varied training is an absolute must,' Hess points out. As well as speed, this sport places demands on the players' stamina, power, coordination and flexibility, and it calls for a whole series of motor skills.

For his performance tests, Hess makes particular use of the countermovement jump and the squat jump. These two types of jump are performed on the force plate. A jump essentially comprises coordinated extension of the trunk, hips, knees and ankle joints. Countermovement and squat jumps are among the most frequently used tests to measure maximum anaerobic power output from the lower extremities.

Test results from a countermovement jump make it possible to detect fatigue of this sort. It is a vertical jump with eccentric concentric muscle activity, which means that the athlete makes a powerful downward countermovement before jumping. As well as the various phases of the jump and the related timing, the explosive power is measured.

Hess usually has his players perform the countermovement jump after a match, and knowledge gained from the test is then inputted into the athletes' individual training programs. 'We carry out subjective tests with the players to discover how well prepared they are for their next appearance on the ice. Thanks to the force plates, we can also incorporate the objective component. What's interesting is that the two types of assessment don't always coincide. A player could feel that he's prepared – but his muscles might not be ready.'

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