In sport I believe there is one thing that should come before everything else in training, and that is injury prevention. I mean, what good are you if you are injured? You can’t train effectively, and if you do train you will not be working optimally or will even be building in bad habits or imbalances as you compensate for the injury.
This is not about managing an injury – it’s about not getting one in the first place.
You will not realise your potential if you are constantly getting injured, and you may shorten any sporting career as a result.
This applies to all sports, whether something relatively passive like golf through to the more violent contact sports that I participate in. And it needs to be said that football players are some of the most regularly injured, especially to the legs with the knee and ankle joints often suffering. Being tackled is a great source of traumatic injury in football, when your body is taken out of its usual plane of motion violently. Even if you don’t participate in a sport, just keeping in shape at the gym, it’s just as important to remain injury free. Or your life may depend on you being in optimum shape such as front line service personnel.
So at the start of any training phase I always emphasise a good element of specific training for injury prevention. I pay particular attention to strengthening all of the joints, working the tendons and ligaments, the connective tissues, and the stabilisation of these joints. I work on weak points in the soft tissue, especially the weak points in sport specific moves. I work on mobilisation and freedom of movement – this is different to flexibility – removing any blockages from poor technique. It is always the weakest point that breaks first, so I look for an overall ‘robustness’ in my athletes.
And once the level of robustness is achieved I revisit it often, whatever training phase my client is in, to ensure that they are maintaining the required conditioning.
After training your body to withstand training, it is important to look at how you are practising and participating in your sport. The first thing is obviously an appropriate warm up, making sure the body is mobilised and at the right working temperature, the muscles as relaxed as they need to be for your sport.
During all supporting training such as resistance work have a look at your form. ‘Gym monkeys’ heaving weights around without concern to proper form is definitely a future blog post! Think of the purpose of your supporting training, and check that your actions support that purpose, and that you are keeping good form throughout all exercises.
I compete in the contact sports and here injury prevention is of paramount importance. Sparring is a massive part of my training but even here, where we are trading blows, injury prevention comes first. I always use the right protective equipment including head guards to minimise injuries. I ensure that egos are left at the door, and that the aim of sparring is not to beat your partner up, but instead to achieve your goals for the session. Sparring is carried out constructively with the appropriate level of contact and with compassion – if you know a shot is going to hit hard – pull it!
For my sparring I use several methods. I do a lot of body boxing, without head contact. I use touch-to-light sparring for highly constructive and technical sparring. I use general light-to-medium sparring for skills development and testing. And I only use hard sparring when appropriate, and only with sparring partners whom I know will pull any shots they consider may cause an injury. Its not about ‘showing’ you’re the best – its about being your best.
So my question to you then is your training setting you up for injuries, or are you planning for optimum performance?