This past week we have welcomed back a field hockey organization that we have been working with for 4-5 years now.
It is a great opportunity for both sides for us to do their preseason strength and speed training. Since a lot of the girls have been through our program multiple times now, they are going to make great progress. Their learning curve has been shortened and the building blocks are already in place.
The one thing that concerns me for long term success of these athletes is the injury rate. This year especially I feel like the girls are more beat up than ever. We have had to make more modifications in 4 days than in years past.
This is just a small sample of a growing trend in sports.
Athletes, young and old, are getting injured more than ever.
There are a lot of contributing factors to injuries and true “prevention” is impossible. Accidents happen and sports are unpredictable. We can at least set our athletes up for the best chance at success.
1. Lack of Strength and Control
Athletes that are strong are able to resist injury better. Injuries happen when a force is too great for the body to withstand, so something has to give. This could be ligaments, tendons, muscles, or bones.
Having the strength to control what the body is doing is important in building durability. More strength means that the body can absorb more force. It will take much more stress on a joint to become injured for a stronger athlete.
Think strength training makes athletes slow and bulky? The truth is that it makes athletes perform better, run faster, and resist injury better.
Adding in even basic strength training is immensely beneficial for athletes.
2. Bad Technique
If you want to reduce the amount of force and stress that the body has to absorb then speed and agility technique needs to be addressed.
When athletes change direction, they should be loading the hips, bending at the knees, and bracing for the chance to go the other way. Too often, athletes will put all of their weight on one leg and try to stick a foot in the ground. This may seem faster because they are moving quicker but it is not.
Athletes that do not change direction properly are increasing risk of injury and losing out on quickness. Learning proper technique is something they can take with them forever.
3. Too Many Games
Athletes are playing their sports way too much. One of our strongest athletes that had been training for many months pulled up with a groin issue not too long ago. Turns out she was playing in 7 (!) games that weekend. I really wonder what would have happened if she had never trained.
When there is too much competition, fatigue sets in and injuries go up. It is exhausting to play multiple games and most athletes cannot recover from such a thing.
It is a huge deal when professional athletes have to play back to back days yet no one cares that an 8 year old might be playing twice in the same day.
Lets ease off of multiple teams that play multiple games in a weekend.
4. Poorly Designed Practices
Sport coaches are in trouble too. Most have no idea what proper conditioning is. They want to get their athletes in better shape, improve their speed, or just show how tough they are. This means their athletes get pounded on.
I would not expect an athlete to be able to bounce back after a 4 game weekend and then getting ran hard on Monday because they didn’t play well. This serves the athlete no benefit.
Be wary of coaches who seem to “like to make the kids run” for that is going to reduce the risk of injury.
Most kids eat like crap.
Without the proper fuel, it becomes hard to perform at a high level and recover from it.
The best advice I can give to make sure they are eating real things (avoiding boxes and bags) and to eat actual breakfast.
And no, a banana does not count as breakfast.
Not getting enough sleep also increases risk of injury. Lack of sleep increases fatigue.
Get off the devices and go to bed. Staying up until 2am might seem fun, cool, and exciting but there really is no benefit to it. Like, at all.
7. Bad Professional Guidance
This is where some people are guided the wrong way. Here’s the scenario:
Athletes hurts knee. Parent takes them to general doctor. Doctor says to rest and see how it feels in 2 weeks. (By natural healing processes and stress removal) 2 weeks later, athlete feels better. Goes back to practice and blows out a meniscus. The issue was never addressed!
Rest does not fix injuries. Injuries require treatment or removal of the cause to heal. If practicing 5 days a week causes pain above the knee cap. The issue is practicing 5 days/week. Going back to that schedule is probably going to cause more issues.
When an injury is in play, athletes need to consult with an Ortho or a Physical Therapist. These are the medical professionals that specialize in the muscles and bones. Save the general practitioner for illnesses, physicals, and other general advice.