With the fall sports season in full gear, coaches and athletes seek the most effective strategies to prevent injury and preserve off-season performance gains.
Injury rates are on the rise as sports participation continues to increase. An estimated 100,000 to 200,000 ACL-related injuries occur in the U.S. each year. A 2012 study from the American Journal of Sports Medicine found that of the 56,650 cruciate ligament patients, men were more likely to suffer tears while women were more likely to suffer injury at a younger age.
A separate study, this one from 2007, examined the incidence of ACL tears in various sports. The researchers found the highest exposure rates for female basketball and soccer players. These athletes also had a threefold greater incidence of ACL tear than their male counterparts.
Armed with this knowledge, injury prevention becomes paramount. Keeping the old adage “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” in mind, let’s examine strategies for preventing these and other injuries during the competitive season:
Some experts say that a 1 percent drop in hydration can lead to a 3 percent to 5 percent drop in performance. Any more than that, and the young athlete may be dealing with decreased muscle functioning, altered cooling capacity and, in more extreme cases, soft tissue dehydration. If you are thirsty this may be a sign that you are already dehydrated.
A drop in strength levels is often accompanied by an increased potential for injury.
Movement quality or joint stability may be compromised.
This leaves the door open for nagging injuries or acute trauma. An effective strategy for maintaining strength during season is to keep the resistance up while cutting the total number of sets per exercise in half.
Quick workouts are best.
Our bodies have a way of adapting to training stimuli. If a new movement or motor pattern is added to the training mix, fatigue and unnecessary soreness may result.
Proper stretching can increase range of motion, restore circulation to soft tissue and potentially decrease muscle soreness. It can also aid in re-establishing quality of movement, which can lead to increases in performance.
Did you know that certain foods can reduce inflammation throughout the body? Studies have shown the healthy omega- 3 fatty acids found in fish, macadamia nuts and avocados can, and anthocyanins, the compounds in cherries that give them their color, have been shown to have potent anti-inflammatory properties.
On the flip side, certain foods or drinks can lead to inflammation, with carbonated sodas and highly processed or hyper-allergenic foods being examples. To decrease the risk of injury from the inside out, try increasing anti-inflammatory foods while decreasing pro-inflammatory foods.
The average high school student goes to bed between 10:30 p.m. and midnight and wakes up around 6 a.m. One of the major functions of sleep is physiological repair and restoration. These processes can be compromised with sleep deprivation. Catnaps or earlier bed times can work wonders for the in-season athlete.
Eating post-exercise facilitates the processes for nervous system regeneration and muscle rebuilding. This can help to alleviate post-game/practice soreness.
Used by many athletes for their effects on post-workout muscle soreness, contrast showers ? alternating between hot and cold water ? are thought to increase blood and lymphatic circulation. This allows for fresh blood, oxygen and nutrients to be shuttled to the soft tissue, expediting the repair process.
A well thought-out approach to in-season training can mean the difference between sitting on the sidelines and excelling on the field. Make the most of this athletic season by keeping yourself healthy.
Jason Shea is owner of Athletic Performance Enhancement Centers in Medway, Mass,. and a strength coach and adjunct professor at Dean College in Franklin, Mass. He has a bachelor’s degree in exercise science and a master’s in human movement.