By Bob Vandersluis
This topic is not very fun to discuss. Unfortunately, as the elephant in the room on most occasions, we like to ignore even the slightest idea of injuries occurring. However, as competitive athletes, there is a good chance that you, or someone you know will suffer a serious injury in their career.
I would love to be able to tell you that ALL injuries are preventable with the right training protocols to give you the perfect amount of strength and flexibility. However, I have to let you down easy on this one. All injuries are not preventable. There are SO many variables at play in any given instance in sport. Actions happen so fast, and contact occurs, and next thing you know you’re on the sideline for 6-8 weeks, or longer.
HERE’S THE GOOD NEWS
According to the Journal of Athletic Training, over 50% of injuries are related to overuse or repetitive trauma. These are injuries that 100% ARE preventable. With proper coaching and
THREE MAIN TYPES OF INJURIES
We consider injuries to fall into 3 categories: Contact, non-contact, overuse.
Contact injuries are probably the easiest to understand, but the most difficult to prevent. Concussions especially have been on the rise, even with new rules, return to play guidelines and overall increased awareness. Other contact injuries may include fractures, contusions, and various joint injuries like dislocations and separations.
Non-contact injuries may include damage to soft tissue like ligaments, tendons, muscles and fascia. Examples of these types are sprains, strains, pulls, tears. These soft tissue injuries can then be categorized into two further categories: acute, and overuse. Overuse injuries may include tendonitis and bursitis. Both of these types of injuries usually result from aggravation and inflammation. The good news is, these types can be, and ARE preventable.
Here are our top 5 Training Considerations for preventing overuse injuries.
1. Preseason and in-season preventive training programs focusing on neuromuscular control, balance, coordination, flexibility, and strengthening of the lower extremities are advocated for reducing overuse injury risk, especially among pediatric athletes with a previous history of injury.
2. All pediatric athletes should begin participating in a general fitness program, emphasizing endurance, flexibility, and strengthening, at least 2 months before the sport season starts.
3. Pediatric athletes should have at least 1 to 2 days off per week from competitive practices, competitions, and sport-specific training. Coaches and administrators should consider these required days off when organizing season schedules.
4. Pediatric athletes should participate on only 1 team of the same sport per season when participation on 2 or more teams of the same sport (eg, high school and club) would involve practices or games (or both) more than 5 days per week.
5. Progression of training intensity, load, time, and distance should only increase by 10% each week to allow for adequate adaptation and to avoid overload.
NON-CONTACT INJURY PREVENTION
These types of injuries often are due to a lack of strength, or stability in given muscle or joint. Our job as strength and conditioning professionals IS to prevent these injuries from happening by making our athletes strong and resilient.
The best way to do this is to prepare athletes properly. This means a thorough assessment before training even begins. We include a functional movement screen to identify movement quality and potential areas of weakness and correction.
Next is to prepare a training protocol that will help to correct and balance. We ensure that all of our athletes have a program suited to their individual needs and abilities. We review and revise programs typically every 3-5 weeks, depending on the time of season, and the frequency of attendance by an athlete.
Hamstring strains and anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tears are undoubtedly the most common injuries among youth athletes. Unfortunately, these injuries can sideline a player for a very long time, and have long term consequences and lingering problems if not addressed.
Here is a quote from a systematic review of hundreds of articles regarding prevention of sports injuries done by the US National Library of Medicine.
Multifaceted programs including eccentric hamstring exercises combined with other training modalities such as plyometric, balance, resistance, agility and/or flexibility exercises would promote positive modifications on the previously identified HAM and ACL risk factors. The addition of appropriate technical feedback appears to be an essential component of the injury prevention protocols in team sport athletes.”
Below is just a snapshot of what we have this young hockey doing as part of his training program to make him strong and resilient.
Our main focus at coaches is to ensure that athletes are getting the best protocols possible to enhance performance, but also decrease the risk of injury. Training needs to incorporate mobility, stability, flexibility training proprioceptive training, core strengthening (both stability and functional) 3 dimensional strength training, plyometric/shock training, conditioning and kinesthetic awareness training – basically the skill of moving efficiently and effectively 3 dimensionally) This systematic approach to training can decrease the chances of a serious injury up to 90%.
Not ALL injuries are preventable unfortunately, but with proper care and taking the right steps to prevent the injury, chances of injury are reduced significantly. The effects of incurring a serious injury can be potentially life long, so taking the right steps to prevent these tragic occurrences seems like a good idea….doesn’t it?