Gary 'Smiler' Turner's Blog

My personal website is, and check out my book "No Worries" on Amazon here

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Injury Prevention Is Better Than Cure

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?


  1. Great post. I'll be following your blog in the future.

    Most of my training right now is running and agility based to assist with football refereeing. It's not just running as it has to incorporate quick changes in speed and direction. My achilles REALLY suffered to begin with... lesson learned!

    That has to be combined with being able to maintain mental concentration during any game. That combination is something I would be interested in reading you blog about!

    I always do a proper warm-up now to get the heart rate up in a controlled fashion, finalising in all-out sprints. Cool down vital too but I still find myself suffering leg cramps in the evening post-games though which I presume are more diet related...

  2. Great post Gary with some sound advise.

    It is commonly the case that people stick to what they are good at and overlook (or out right avoid) the exercises they find difficult, boring or just dont know about. This can create muscle imbalances or biomechanical faults that put competitors in a position where injury is inevitable... not just a risk.

    From a musculoskeletal rehabilitation perspective the common biomechanical areas which need to be addressed in our patients are:

    Muscle tightness

    When muscles become stonger, they grow. When they grow, they become tighter, when they become tighter they then pull our joints out of alignment. If our joints are out of alignment the workload of complex functional movements becomes inefficient and leads to the body working against itself which in turn can lead to injuries regardless of the sporting environment.

    Muscle weakness

    On the other side of the spectrum are weak muscles. If a muscle is weak then it may not be capable of producing the movements it is designed for. Since the body will naturally find a way to perform a required movement anyway, often the wrong muscles become involved which again causes imbalances.

    Joint stability

    Each joint has a group of muscles which stabilise it and a set of muscles designed to move it. Some examples of the stability muscles are the core stabilisers (which stabilise the lubar spine) and the rotator cuff (which dynamically stabilise the shoulder joint). To train the stability muscles a low load approach is required as these muscles are generally slow twitch. By having good control of the stability muscles the risk of joint injuries is lessened.

    Balance and Propriocetion.

    Balance describes the ability to keep the body in equilibrium, proprioception is the system which provides sensory information to the brain where the body is in space (an example of this system is experienced when you almost twist your ankle whilst running but manage to save it). When these systems are firing muscles work more efficiently and the risk of injury is reduced. Training these systems can take pressure off of an existing injury.

    As for muscle cramps there are many different theories on why they occur, nutrition can be a factor, specifically dehydration in endurance type activites.

    Vigourous activity is often related to muscle cramps... if frequently occuring in a specific muscle, maybe there is a biomechanical imbalance causing that muscle to overwork.

    Dave Garrett