The Importance of Body Composition in the National Hockey League Combine Physiologic Assessments

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The National Hockey League (NHL) combine was designed to assess draft-eligible players based on body composition, speed, power, and strength. The importance of body composition in the battery of combine physical tests was investigated and differences in results based on position were explored. Thirty-seven elite male Canadian university hockey players (age = 22.86 ± 1.55 years, weight = 87.21 ± 6.52 kg, height = 181.69 ± 6.19 cm) participated in the study at the beginning of their hockey season. All participants underwent physical testing (as outlined in the 2016 NHL combine) and one total body dual energy x-ray absorptiometry (DXA) scan to measure body composition. Partial correlations (controlling for weight) were used to explore the relationship among body composition measures (body fat percentage, visceral fat, BMI, lower lean tissue mass, upper lean tissue mass, upper fat mass, lower fat mass) with NHL fitness tests (bench press, pull-ups, grip strength, long jump, pro-agility, vertical jump, V˙ O2max, and the Wingate Anaerobic Test). In 4 of the 6 strength/power tests (Wingate Anaerobic Test, long jump, bench press, and both grip strengths) lower and upper lean tissue mass explained significant amounts of variance. Although forwards and defensemen significantly differed in right grip strength and pro-agility left scores, they did not differ in regards to any body composition variables. Body composition has a significant influence on several combine-specific tests, which may help sport scientists and strength and conditioning coaches better tailor training programs to optimize performance in elite hockey players.

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