Out. Disabled list. Injured reserve. Surgery. These are words the sports world dreads to hear. Whether you are a fan checking your daily fantasy lineup or a coach planning for the game next week, injuries are a very real part of the game that must be dealt with. Unfortunately injuries aren’t just limited to pro ball.
Each year new articles come out speaking on the increased incidence of injuries in youth sports. Youth injuries garnering the most attention are ACL tear, concussion, and Tommy John surgery, but the list doesn’t stop there. Ankle sprains, low back pain, little league elbow and shoulder, hip impingement, plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendinopathy, the list goes on and on. I’m here to tell you that there is an end in sight, but it takes work and attention to detail. Children, adolescents, and their parents must know how to care of their bodies and make sure they are fully prepared for the sport they are playing.
Often, strength is associated with football, powerlifting, rugby, etc. What about tennis, golf, or even ballet? Is it necessary for those as well? Absolutely. Strength is measured by the maximal force production of your muscles. While I have never done it myself, I know several dancers that can attest to the difficulty of maintaining pointe while moving across the dance floor. The ability to maintain a powerful stance during a forceful backhand on the tennis court requires strength in the legs and trunk. Strength is necessary for efficient functional movement, especially when competing at a high level with max effort. A lack of strength can lead to athletes performing in sub-optimal positions predisposing them to injury. This does not mean all athletes need to seek out the local power lifting gym and drink protein shakes between every meal, but a focused strength and conditioning program is beneficial. Especially considering the length and demand of yea-round sports.
I cannot stress the importance of proper body mechanics enough. While strength is the foundation for general athletic performance, body mechanics are the foundation for skilled athletic performance. Being able to move efficiently will minimize unnecessary stresses on various tissues in the body. Proper mechanics should be emphasized over max performance in skilled activities from start to finish. In the heat of the moment, perfect mechanics are not always achievable or even ideal. However, having them ingrained through effective practice can help minimize injury down the road.
Injury History: Are you fully rehabbed?
“Finish strong!” How many times have you heard a coach say this? You can perform perfectly throughout an event or competition, but if you botch the finish, it will all fall apart. The same philosophy should be applied to your rehabilitation. Simply getting to a pain free state does not mean you have finished the rehab. Adequate time and training needs to take place for the necessary physiologic change to occur. You will be much better off in the long run if you modify your activity (not all cases require complete removal from a sport) and address the dysfunction in one rehab period. What sounds better, one 3-month rehab, or three separate 6-week rehabs along with nagging injuries affecting performance for years to follow?
Don’t blow off common injuries as “part of the sport” or “just something you deal with.” It is very easy for a small injury to snowball into something more serious. Often times, that small injury can be an indicator of dysfunction putting you at increased risk for further injury. Pay attention to your body and take care of it. It is important to learn the difference between soreness and pain. If you have any questions whether a certain pain or difficulty is a serious injury, or if a simple modification can be made allowing you to continue playing safely and effectively, seek out a PT Solutions physical therapist.
Preventing Future Injuries
As I mentioned earlier, being self-aware and knowing what your body is going through and how much stress it can take is extremely important. Don’t be afraid to push it to the limit. Grind, gut it out, work your tail off, but understand when the warning bells are going off. Become a student of the game and of human performance. Educate yourself on exercise, nutrition, and sleep for optimal performance and health. You can always seek assistance and guidance from a local PT Solutions Physical therapist.
About the Author
Dr. Zach Walston, PT, DPT is National Research Director at PT Solutions Physical Therapy. Dr. Walston earned his BS in Human Nutrition, Foods, and Exercise at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. He then received his Doctorate of Physical Therapy from Emory University. While at Emory, Dr. Walston received the Johnnie Morgan Award for Excellence in Clinical Science. He is a graduate of PT Solution’s Orthopaedic Residency Program and utilizes his expertise in rehabilitation, exercise, and nutrition to help patients recover from current injuries and prevent future ones.