When an athlete gets injured it can be a pretty depressing time, all they want to do is get back on the field, court, or platform and do what they love. However, it is important to understand why the athlete got injured in the first place.
Outside of deliberate mechanical or accidental injury (missteps, and contact injuries for example) here are my top three reasons athletes get injured.
Poor General Physical Preparedness
A lot of athletes are thrown into specific sports training far too early. They lack the base to build sports skills on. Without a well-established fitness level, the chances of injury grows.
Before we go too far into this, we need to understand the differences between General Physical Preparedness (GPP) and Special Physical Preparedness (SPP).
GPP is when an athlete completes movements that increase their overall fitness level. Movements that are unrelated to their specific sports. For example, a sprinter doing farmers walks, or a strongman doing hill sprints. There are endless lists of things an athlete can do to increase their fitness levels that do not involve the sport they are involved in.
This style of training should be a large part of an athlete’s offseason training as well as in season. Majority of off-season training should be GPP where one or two workouts during in season should be general in nature.
On the other hand, SPP is when an athlete completes movements that are specific to their particular sport. For example when a sprinter does weighted sprints or when a strongman does farmers walk. SPP training should be done closer to competition time but also during offseason to hone and keep the sport specific skills sharp.
The reason why a high level of GPP is necessary is that an athlete who has been exposed to all planes of movement and awkward situations will have both the capacity as well as ability to excel in their SPP training.
Before any athlete can dive into a sport specific phase, they should be physically fit. Enough to handle the rigors of the said sport. Doing multiple GPP sessions per week will greatly reduce the risk of injury.
Poor Restoration Habits
All the training an athlete goes through takes a toll on the body. Without the proper restoration techniques, the athlete can just be digging the hole deeper and deeper, and injury is bound to happen. Repeat use injuries are the majority of why athletes get injured in the first place. Regenerating and restoring tissue is of utmost importance and unfortunately one of the biggest pieces missing from most athletes programming.
Simply resting (not doing anything) will not get the athlete’s tissues ready for another intense training session. The athlete or coach needs to use any and all proven methods to try and get the athlete ready to train optimally.
There are plenty of restoration methods that are simple, cheap and even free. They include and are not limited to: Foam rolling, Active rest (walking), Light resistance work, Hot/Cold contrast baths, PNF stretching, and much more.
Choosing the right methods is a very personal thing, and every method will work differently for each athlete. It is important to find what works.
Programming restoration is not as complicated as you may think. Once the athlete has completed a training session, it is important to begin some form of restoration. Wither it is a hot shower, PNF stretching, or some form or myofascial release (foam rolling). Between training sessions remember to do your active rest and GPP work for restoration alongside any other form of restoration that is effective for the athlete.
Poor Movement Patterns
Movement is the key to every single athletic endeavor. There is a proper way to complete movements, and then there are poor ways to complete movements. If the athlete is continuously showing poor movement patterns during training and competition, there is a good chance for injury.
It will most likely not come instantly but over continuously doing the movements in an inefficient fashion. This is a product of poor coaching and not always something that is initiated by the athlete, but it is a leading factor in the athletic injury.
The best way to improve upon this issue is to get better coaching. Regularly videotape the athletes training technique and pick it apart. Form a proper practice of movement in all skills. Repetition is key and relearning to move properly will take time and patience on behalf of the athletes as well as the coach.
Preventing athletic injury should be of utmost importance to both athlete and coach. When an athlete is injury free that is usually an athlete who is continually improving. Injuries are a sure way to take a step back in progress.
These three components are part of a large puzzle to both progress as well as injury prevention. Increase the athlete’s physical fitness, so they are prepared to tackle anything. Implement a strategic restoration program for them to take on the next training session at 100%. Make sure the athlete’s moving patterns are on point to solidify form and technique. The athlete will be that much closer to the podium.