Analysis of high-intensity skating in top-class ice-hockey match-play in relation to training status and muscle damage

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We examined high-intensity activities in a top-class ice-hockey game and the effect of training status. Male ice-hockey players (n=36) from the NHL participated. Match-analysis was performed during a game and physical capacity was assessed by a submaximal Yo-Yo Intermittent Recovery Ice-hockey test, level 1 (YYIR1-IHSUB). Venous blood samples were collected 24-h post-game to determine markers of muscle damage. Players performed 119±8 and 31±3 m·min-1 of high-intensity and sprint-skating, respectively, during a game. Total distance covered was 4606±219 m (2260–6749 m), of which high-intensity distance was 2042±97 m (757–3026 m). Sprint-skating speed was 5–8% higher (P<0.05) in periods 1 and 2 vs period 3 and overtime. Defensemen (D) covered 29% more (P<0.05) skating in total than forwards (F) and were on the ice 47% longer. However, F performed 54% more (P<0.05) high-intensity skating per min than D. Plasma creatine kinase (CK) was 338±45 (78–757) U·L-1 24-h post-game. HR loading during YYIR1-IHSUB correlated inversely (P<0.05) to the frequency of high-intensity skating bouts (r=-0.55) and VO2max (r=-0.85, P<0.05) and positively to post-game CK (r=0.49; P<0.05). In conclusion, ice hockey is a multiple-sprint sport that provokes fatigue in the latter half of a game. Forwards perform more intense skating than defensemen. Moreover, high-intensity game activities during top-class ice hockey are correlated to cardiovascular loading during a submaximal skating test. Taken together, training of elite ice-hockey players should improve the ability for repeated high-intensity skating, and testing should include the YYIR1-IHSUB test as an indicator for ice-hockey specific physical match performance.

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