• Basic Fitness Tips

    Injury Prevention

    by Andrew T. Spence MED, ATC, CSCS
    Bassett Healthcare Network Sports Medicine

    The last thing you remember was kicking the ball. What happened after is you sprained your ankle. How did this happen? Well, injury occurs at a common rate in athletics. To control it is impossible. As an athlete performing skills, you are creating tremendous forces on your body. These forces are transmitted through your bones, muscles and joints. If there is a significant amount of force transferred at the wrong time or in the wrong place, an injury may be born. Think about it. You step in a hole while running, this causes your knee to hyperextend while you are placing full force of you body on that limb. A host of things could go wrong from here, from rolling your ankle to blowing out your anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). All of this because you stepped in a hole. Does this mean that an injury will happen every time? The answer is no. We can prevent certain types of injury from happening with simple conditioning and strengthening exercises.

    It makes sense that when you start your season, you must be in shape. Too often, athletes do not begin their seasons in shape. If your muscles are not ready for the forces that your sport requires it will cause them to break down or fatigue, thus placing stress on the joints and bones and possibly leading to injury. This is why training before you begin your sport is so important. How do you know if you are fit? Many young athletes are very active and play sports all year round. This is fine for overall fitness and good health. But to be fit for your sport, you need to replicate the movements of your sport. If your sport involves a lot of sprinting, you should incorporate sprints into your workouts. If it involves a lot of jumping, make sure you are performing jumps in your workouts and so on. To accomplish a good level of fitness that will help to prevent injury, we must consider the different types of training: cardiovascular, weight/resistance, interval, core and flexibility. (Note: the following are basic training guidelines and will differ individually based on the demands of your sport. If these are too difficult or are causing pain, you need to alter or discontinue your workout. You can do this by discussing with your coach or the athletic trainer if applicable).

    Exercises Number of times a week
    Cardiovascular 6
    Interval Training 4
    Weight/Tesistance Training 4
    Core Training 7
    Flexibility 7

    Cardiovascular activity

    Five times a week, 30-60 min a time at 60- 80% maximum heart rate. Cardiovascular training is long continuous activity that involves the large muscle groups for a prolonged period of time. These exercises include: running, cycling, swimming, etc. It is important to train appropriately for your sport. If it is a running sport, you need to run to get fit. This does not mean you cannot cross train (add in a bike or swim workout to your routine) while training for your sport, but the cross training must not substitute for the running. If you become injured, oftentimes it is recommended to begin cross training at lower intensities so that you may be able to handle the stresses of running at a time to follow.

    The intensity of how you run is also important. This is how hard your heart is working during your training. If you run at lower intensities and your sport takes place at higher intensities, you may not be fit enough for the demands. There are different methods that exist to figure out your intensity. Regardless of which one you use, you need to feel like you are getting a workout in the end.

    Interval training

    Three to four times a week, higher intensity, and short duration exercises. Interval training is important because it changes intensity within the workout. If all you do to get ready for your sport is run long continuous runs on a track or treadmill, you may still end up with a muscular injury. The reason is that you were not working hard enough during your initial training. There are a number of interval exercises that can be done. Your coaches do these as a part of your practices. When you do sprints, run hills, perform explosive drills etc. You as the athlete can help yourself by doing these before you begin your season. When you finish your cardio workout spend some extra time and run some sprints or hills.

    Weight/resistance training

    Four times a week. Begin with circuit training (multiple exercises that work both the upper and lower body). This type of workout is usually done in a short period of time 20-30 minutes with high repetitions and low resistance. The benefit here is that it will allow your muscles to handle the stresses that heavier lifting will place upon them. After a designated period of time, you will be able to begin heavier resistance with less repetition. Your coaches will typically have some sort of off-season program for you. Once your season starts, you will likely need to back off on the heavier weights due to the demands the sport will place on your body. You may still be able to circuit train in season, but that is individual and depends on your sport. Remember to lift with balance (chest/back, upper body/lower body) and allow for appropriate rest between lifting days (~48 hours).

    Core training

    Stomach, back, and hips seven days a week. This type of training is important to help prevent injury and promote better performance. By addressing the core the athlete will have more balance and strength to keep them upright while they participate. This in turn will allow for better performance and less fatigue. Also having a strong core can reduce certain injuries in particular the Anterior Cruciate Ligament of the knee. Core training should be done during and after your workouts, there are a bunch of different exercises that will address the core. Some of the more popular ones are stomach crunches and back hyperextensions. Again your coaches will typically have something in place for your training, but it won't hurt for you to do them on your own.

    Flexibility training

    Upper and lower body seven days a week. Flexibility is one of the most overlooked components of fitness. Muscles are elastic and have the ability to stretch. If a muscle is at its fullest elasticity, it will have the ability to generate its maximum force. When an athlete doesn't stretch, the muscle may become shorter. If you are still playing at the same level with a muscle that is shorter, the potential of injury rears its ugly head again. For an athlete who has sustained a muscular injury, the muscle will definitely shorten due to the injury. So flexibility training is incredibly important for this athlete to regain motion. Flexibility programs should be done from head-to-toe stretching until mild tension is felt. Never stretch into the painful range of motion.

    So now you have some basics on injury prevention. With a little extra preparation and effort in the off-season, an athlete can reap the rewards of their sport instead of watching from the sidelines. Take the time and be healthy out there. If you develop any problems contact the Athletic Trainer at 800-618-8880. See you on the field!

    Return to running protocol

    Phase 1 – walk 2 minutes, run 1 minute x 10 30 minutes total (10 running)
    Phase 2 – walk 2 minutes, run 2 minutes x 8 32 minutes total (16 running)
    Phase 3 – walk 2 minutes, run 3 minutes x 6 30 minutes total (18 running)
    Phase 4 – walk 2 minutes, run 4 minutes x 5 30 minutes total (20 running)
    Phase 5 – walk 1 minute, run 4 minutes x 6 30 minutes total (24 running)
    Phase 6 – walk 1 minute, run 5 minutes x 5 30 minutes total (25 running)
    Phase 7 – walk 1 minute, run 7 minutes x 4 32 minutes total (28 running)
    Phase 8 – walk 1 minute, run 10 minutes x 3 33 minutes total (30 running)
    Phase 9 – walk 1 minute, run 15 minutes x 2 32 minutes total (30 running)
    Phase 10 – run 20 minutes, walk 1 minute, run 10 minutes
    Phase 11 – run 25 minutes, walk 1 minute, run 5 minutes
    Phase 12 – run 30 minutes

    Start by running 3 days per week, rest days in between running days
    Repeat each phase at least 2x before moving to next phase
    Advance phases only as comfortable
    May add a 4th running day per week after the 2nd or 3rd week