The physiology of ice hockey performance: An update

Jeppe Foged Vigh-Larsen, Magni Mohr

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)
40 Downloads (Pure)


Ice hockey is an intense team sport characterized by repeated bursts of fast-paced skating, rapid changes in speed and direction and frequent physical encounters. These are performed in on-ice shifts of ~30–80s interspersed with longer sequences of passive recovery, resulting in about 15–25min on-ice time per player. Nearly 50% of the distance is covered at high-intensity skating speeds and with an accentuated intense activity pattern in forwards compared to defensemen. During ice hockey match-play, both aerobic and anaerobic energy systems are significantly challenged, with the heart rate increasing toward maximum levels during each shift, and with great reliance on both glycolytic and phosphagen ATP provision. The high-intensity activity pattern favors muscle glycogen as fuel, leading to pronounced reductions despite the relatively brief playing time, including severe depletion of a substantial proportion of individual fast- and slow-twitch fibers. Player-tracking suggests that the ability to perform high-intensity skating is compromised in the final stages of a game, which is supported by post-game reductions in repeated-sprint ability. Muscle glycogen degradation, in particular in individual fibers, as well as potential dehydration and hyperthermia, may be prime candidates implicated in exacerbated fatigue during the final stages of a game, whereas multiple factors likely interact to impair exercise tolerance during each shift. This includes pronounced PCr degradation, with potential inadequate resynthesis in a proportion of fast-twitch fibers in situations of repeated intense actions. Finally, the recovery pattern is inadequately described, but seems less long-lasting than in other team sports.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-14
Number of pages14
JournalScandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports
Publication statusPublished - 14 Dec 2022


  • aerobic
  • anaerobic
  • fatigue
  • high-intensity exercise
  • muscle metabolism
  • team-sport


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