15 June 2017 Injury Prone? Here’s Why
Injuries are an unfortunate reality of all sports. Even the most elite athletes with the finest trainers, doctors, physical therapists and resources fall victim to injury. Not only do they slow your progression of strength and skill development, they can also negatively affect your quality of life. The following advice aims to help you prevent injury and save you potential lost training time.
LISTEN TO YOUR BODY
“No pain, no gain” is a foolish approach towards training. Pain is your body’s way of warning you that you’re putting it in danger and to alter your behaviour. Exertion and fatigue are key to progression in strength training; however, one should be able to clearly differentiate the two from pain.
Strength training works by the associated breaking down and building up of our tissues. The key to improving is finding the correct balance between stress and recovery. Often, serious injuries begin as a slight discomfort, with your body signalling that you are putting it at risk. This can often be resolved in the initial stages through rest or gentle rehabilitation exercises. While this presents a minor halt in progression, it has no significant effect on overall progress. However, when these minor discomforts are ignored and trained through, severe injury can result, requiring weeks or months off training. This can cause extensive or permanent reductions in performance, loss of progress, financial burden from treatment, and in severe cases, surgery.
Not all minor injuries will become major problems. Although, it is often impossible to tell which are safe to train through and which have the potential to worsen into a chronic issue. When in doubt, the safest approach is to rest the area for a few days and if pain does not subside, see a health professional. A rest period also provides the opportunity to focus on other areas of the body and address any weaknesses. For example, if you have a lower limb injury, continue to train your upper body, or if you can’t put pressure on your wrist without pain, work on pulling exercises.
TAKE THINGS SLOW; GRADUAL PROGRESSION IS KEY.
The saying “slow and steady wins the race” holds true to strength training. Motivation often comes in peaks and troughs. For example, it can be tempting to perform handstands continuously following a handstand workshop or a sudden breakthrough. However, if you are new to handstands or similar movements, this is a recipe for injury. Strength training works by the body adapting to the demands placed on it, but when this demand is excessive, the tissues cannot repair and injury occurs.
For adaptation of muscle to take place, larger stress must be placed on that muscle than what it is used to. This load needs to be gradually implemented and increased for continual progress to be made. Bone, tendon and muscles have a capacity to adapt; they remodel and strengthen as a result of the breaking down and building up caused by this load. Progressing too quickly can result in the stresses placed upon these structures exceeding their capacity to remodel, resulting in injury. This frequently happens with a change in physical activity, such as starting a new hobby or increasing your training workload in volume or intensity, too dramatically.
BE SENSIBLE WITH NEW ACTIVITIES. ENSURE YOU ARE PREPARED
The load that will cause an injury in one person may be perfectly safe for another. For example, an Olympic weight-lifter may perform 70kg barbell squats as part of their warm up. This same activity could cause serious injury if attempted by someone with no resistance training experience. Before attempting an activity, the risks involved should be considered to ensure the participant is adequately prepared to perform the movement safely. With weight training, this is usually done by starting with a light resistance and building up gradually. Bodyweight training can be slightly more complicated. For example, before performing a free-standing handstand, one should first ensure they have adequate arm strength to support their bodyweight, sufficient shoulder mobility, feel comfortable being inverted and are familiar with how to safely exit a handstand. Taking a gradual, progressive and sensible approach can prevent most injuries from occurring.
The beauty of bodyweight strength training is that it is a very controlled activity where YOU are in control of what you do with your body. Unlike other sports where others will try to impose their will on you and potentially cause you injury.
BUILD A RESILIENT BODY
Unfortunately, accidents still happen, mistakes can be made and occasionally falls and mishaps occur. The key to minimizing injury in these cases is having a resilient body, meaning a body that is strong, flexible and balanced with good neuromuscular control.
WHAT DOES THE EVIDENCE SAY?
Evidence strongly supports strength training for reducing the risk of injury, (1) as well as neuromuscular control exercises such as balancing on one foot with your eyes closed. (2) A well-designed warm-up tailored for your training will also significantly reduce this risk. (3)
Although there is limited research available, stretching has not been conclusively determined to reduce the risk of injury. A systematic review written by Julia Lewis in 2014 commented on the need for continued research on the effects of stretching and it’s relation to the reduction of injury incidence. (4)
Stretching may be beneficial at reducing certain injuries (e.g. muscle strains) during at-risk activities. (5) However, static stretching is commonly avoided prior to training due to equivocal findings that it may reduce maximal strength when done immediately prior to activity. (6)
Stretching although not always implicated should be performed only on individual and sport-specific basis. With regards to bodyweight training, stretching prior to activities that require force output in a stretched position, such as hollowbacks or back levers, is recommended. Static stretching performed before activity has been shown to cause performance reductions at shortened muscle length, but moderate performance increases at longer muscle lengths. (7)
In summary there is no single intervention that will prevent injury, but taking a sensible approach and applying the above recommendations can reduce your risk of injury and extend the longevity of your training.
(1) Lauersen JB, Bertelsen DM, Andersen LB. The effectiveness of exercise interventions to prevent sports injuries: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials. Br J Sports Med. 2014 Jun;48(11):871-77.
(2) Hübscher M. Zech A, Pfeifer K, Hänsel F, Vogt L, Banzer W. Neuromuscular training for sports injury prevention: a systematic review. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2010 Mar;42(3):413-21.
(3) Herman K, Barton C, Malliaris P, Morrissey D. The effectiveness of neuromuscular warm-up strategies, that require no additional equipment, for preventing lower limb injuries during sports participation: a systematic review. BMC Med. 2012 Jul;10(75):1-12.
(4) J Lewis. A Systematic Literature Review of the Relationship Between Stretching and Athletic Injury Prevention. OrthopNurs. 2014 Nov-Dec;33(6):312-20.
(5) McHugh MP, Cosgrave CH. To stretch or not to stretch: the role of stretching in injury prevention and performance. Scand J Med Sci Sports. 2010 Apr;20(2):169-81.
(6) Kay AD, Blazevich AD. Effect of acute static stretch on maximal muscle performance: a systematic review. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2012 Jan;44(1):154-64.
(7) Herman K, Barton C, Malliaris P, Morrissey D. The effectiveness of neuromuscular warm-up strategies, that require no additional equipment, for preventing lower limb injuries during sports participation: a systematic review. BMC Med. 2012 Jul;10(75):1-12.