For Nils Höglander, the sophomore slump hit hard this season. The 2019 second-rounder didn’t find the same success on the scoresheet that he did in his rookie campaign, though his underlying numbers were quite good throughout. As snakebit as he was, Höglander racked up 18 points through 60 games and was bouncing back a bit.
Unfortunately, that was about as good as it got. During the morning skate on March 16th, Patrick Johnston reported that Höglander was in some discomfort. He later left practice and has not played a game for the Canucks since.
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Johnston later reported that it was an apparent groin issue, one which Höglander is already seeing a specialist about. It comes as added misery in a rough campaign and recent reports have not been encouraging either. During media availability prior to the Canucks-Blues matchup on Wednesday, head coach Bruce Boudreau did not bring good tidings.
A season-ending groin strain seems par for the course with Höglander’s luck this year. However, for him and Canucks fans, this injury shouldn’t be a major cause for concern. Here’s why.
Groin strains are common in hockey. While most are associated with goaltenders — and rightly so — a study by Flik et al. (2005) found that groin injuries as a whole for skaters were about 10% of the total amount of injuries faced by hockey players.
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A reason for this is due to the biomechanical demands of skating. The movements that are required in a player’s stride usually tend to flex and extend the groin muscles. The increased use of the groin muscles coupled with the vulnerability of a players’ skates and the dynamic changes of direction hockey demands increases the risk of a strain occurring.
When a strain occurs, it’s usually due to some sort of applied force. Whether it’s from stretching it too far apart in a vain attempt to do the splits or getting hit knee on knee, some sort of external factor would have to stretch the tissue out for an injury to occur. In Höglander’s case, this didn’t appear to be a violent collision, so that’s something of a relief. What could’ve happened is that he may have caught a rut, forcing his hip into external rotation and pulling something in the groin.
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In this case, Höglander looked to be fine after the 6-3 win over the Devils. He didn’t seem to be visibly labouring through his shifts and was able to take to the ice to skate the next morning for practice. However, there had to be some level of discomfort for him to be removed from skating. This along with the timeline that Boudreau presented leads me to suspect that it was a grade 2 strain, with partial tears present in the structure.
Operating under that assumption, a grade 2 strain has a projected timeline of three to six weeks to recover. It would mean that at best, the young Swede would return the week of April 4th, and at worst the final week of the regular season. Under the premise of the worst-case scenario, Höglander would already be out for the season to begin with.
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Caution is something that is exercised very frequently with groin strains. Reinjury of the affected area is common, especially when the athlete is rushing to return to action. Proper recovery and rest are needed before any sort of rehab is done to regain strength and mobility of the groin. Time is also needed for any athlete to get the range of motion back to pre-injury, as well as find the confidence in their body when it’s fully healed.
In Höglander’s case, playing it safe is probably why he was shut down for the season. He was skating fine the day after, which is already encouraging, but there’s no reason to ice him when he’s not feeling 100% in the groin area. Especially when regaining mobility and strength, it’s something that needs to be carefully managed to minimize the risk of reinjury. Though the Canucks could definitely use his talents, Höglander and the team would be better served for him to take his time getting his legs back under him.
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With how important the groin is for skating and playing hockey, it’s more than understandable if Canucks fans don’t see him back until next preseason. Höglander has had a rough go at things as of late, with the injury being the unfortunate salt in the wound. At the end of the day, though with a bit of a shroud of mystery, his groin pull shouldn’t be too much of a concern.
With plenty of data in the hockey setting along with the recovery timeline stretching to pretty much the end of the year, a season-ending groin strain isn’t as bad as it sounds when it comes to Nils Höglander. It gives him an entire offseason to rest and recover and get himself back to where he wants to be for a stronger campaign up next.
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