Alicia Gal says she has found her niche. And it’s researching sledge hockey in hopes of making the game better.
Inspired after seeing a friend in North Bay get involved in sledge hockey after he sustained a back injury, the Carleton University Masters student started her PHD in Carleton’s inaugural biomedical engineering program last fall.
“I introduced him to the local para hockey coach when he was in the hospital and once he got through movement rehabilitation this is somewhere he could go and eventually he did end up playing,” said Gal about her friend’s introduction to sledge hockey.
The St. Joseph-Scollard Hall alum always had a passion for hockey and realized that very little research had been done on sledge hockey.
That has changed with her research.
Initially she started to look at the game with Nipissing University Dr. Dean Hay, when she was doing her undergraduate in Physical Education at the local post-secondary institution. She noticed very little research was being done on the para game.
“So to me it was kind of neat to find a niche in hockey that had a gap that needed to be filled,” said Gal, who is also the biomechanics coach for the Carleton Ravens varsity men's soccer team.
“The science is the part that interested me and connecting it with the sport of hockey was really neat that I could grow with that passion.”
Now, using high tech equipment she is breaking down the movements of the athletes while on the sledges, even using test subjects who are able bodied but had never played before but were in good physical condition.
She’s comparing those inexperienced sledge athletes to experienced sledge hockey players.
Gal is also hoping another part of her study will develop into a unique questionnaire relating to sledge hockey injuries at the elite level.
“We are working to create a questionnaire, and hopefully fingers crossed if I get approval, to distribute it internationally to see what players are getting injured, how they think they are getting injured and maybe if there’s that documentation of how they actually did get injured and to see if we can close that gap in that player-coach staffing education on this, and this and this needs to change, or this is pretty good, or you want to keep going on that track.”
Gal hopes sledge hockey becomes less of an exclusive sport and becomes more inclusive for anyone to try.
“There are things for children, or veterans or people who are in accidents or people who are born with a disability to be able to participate in and what is really neat at the community level, in that abled bodied people can actually play sledge hockey,” she said.
Her research has even caught the eye of Canada’s National Para Hockey team, which will be looking for gold in the Winter Paralympics in PyeonChang in March.