5 Tips for Preventing Sport Injuries.
When I was a kid I played almost every sport there was, at least what there was in my town. After every practice and every game I felt great; like i could go out and run a marathon. As I grew up, the sports I was playing in gradually became more and more intense; we had to train harder and more often. The lacrosse and hockey games become more physical and harder on my body. But, being the naive teenage boy that I was, I didn't think anything of it. The soreness and the bruises would fade and go away and the pain wouldn't last, I was invincible, right?
This thought soon changed as I approached my late teens early twenties. I began to experience more and more injuries, pain and general soreness; but did I do anything about it? Nah, I just shook it off. It wasn't until I seriously injured myself during a lacrosse game, with a dislocated shoulder, that pretty well ended my playing days in the sport, that I realized I had to make some changes.
Developing recovery habits wouldn't have prevented my specific injury from happening; It has, however, helped to speed up the healing time as well as decrease overall discomfort from the aftermath of a much needed surgery. This post isn't specifically about recovery from surgery but more of a way of informing those who need a guide to recovery options as a way of preventing or help relieving everything from minor muscle soreness, to the aforementioned surgical healing process.
We call 'Recovery' the lost or forgotten discipline, because most people, like myself, either just don't bother with recovery tools or have no idea of the many options available and the benefits of said options; I will be going over a few of the different methods and tools available.
MyTop Tools for General Recovery are:
5. Relaxation & Flexibility Techniques
Now this might sound like rubbish or a no brainer, but nowadays finding peace is hard to come by for some. With busy work schedules and non-stop family plans, finding time to workout is tough enough let alone time for recovery. Stress comes in all shapes and sizes, but if your body is constantly under stress, it will find a way to deal with the here and now and push your sore muscles from your hard workout down the priority list and let the practice squad take care of it. So even if you're under emotional stress, this takes away the attention that your muscles need, this slows down the time it takes to recover properly and fully heal. So take some time for yourself and simply relax; meditation, breathing exercise and yoga are great ways to decrease all kinds of different stresses that might be going on in your life that may be robbing you of adequate recovery.
4. Sports & Self Massage
Massage can decrease muscle tightness and soreness associated with Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS), it will also increase circulation. Being sore is a common side effect of cardio and strength training. Massage has an analgesic effect, performed properly it can encourage relaxation by decreasing sympathetic nervous system firing, which in turn decreases the sensation of pain.
An increase in muscle tightness or hypertonicity, can cause havoc on the body. A tight muscle here and there can make slight alterations to the way the body moves, but unfortunately, 9/10 times it is in a dysfunctional way. These dysfunctions can then lead to major injuries, which I will be discussing in future articles. But with sports massage performed by a professional or taking sometime with self massage, one can decrease the unnecessary tightness in muscles. This allows for an increase in range of motion in the joints which provides the most efficient and ideal movement patterns and decreases the chance of injuries.
The biggest advantage of massage is the increase in circulation. As the cardiovascular system pumps blood through the veins and arteries of the body, it carries with it much needed nutrients and oxygen, and carries away waste which is the by-product of working cells. When muscles work during strenuous exercise they need to break down certain essential nutrients for energy, this break down creates waste. Like any waste it either needs to be taking to the trash or recycled. The body naturally does this just fine through the circulatory system. But with the help of a massage the circulation of blood will increase. This provides the cells with the nutrients to start rebuilding and repairing, as well as removing the waste that could hinder this repair. This quicker response due to the increase circulatory rate will allow the athlete to train harder and more often achieving maximal gains.
So get in and book a massage or head out and grab a foam roller and get started on your recovery.
3. Effective Warm Up & Active Recovery
Let's start with effective warm up. Most people think if they head out for a jog or hop on the treadmill for 5 minutes it's an effective warm up. These people typically don't understand, even a jog needs a warm up, which is strange considering there is an abundance of articles out there on the highly researched topic of running injuries. These people should know better, but again and again I witness people wearing there shoe tread away on the treadmill.
Disclaimer: I in no way think running is bad, there are some very important benefits to running, that's to say if it's performed properly.
I am a big believer in a properly designed dynamic mobility warmup. Dynamic meaning moving, and moving in the particular ranges that are going to be worked during the up coming workout. Moving within these ranges warms up, not just the muscles but more importantly the joints. When the joints get warm they self lubricate, this lubrication decrease the abrasion between articular surfaces. It's like how a vehicle needs oil or else the engine will seize and then you're taking the bus; without the lubrication the joints will begin to essentially seize, but in the form of osteoarthritis, tendinitis, bursitis and other potentially serious pathologies that can hinder development and bring a halt to your training program. Nobody wants that.
If you have ever watched an interview with players after a hockey or basketball game, you have surely noticed at one point or another some of the athletes riding a bike. I have even witnessed it during the Tour de France; why would you continue to ride after being in the saddle for 4-6 hours? This is because riding a bike at sub-maximal levels after an intense bout of exercise provides a flushing effect of the waste through the circulatory system, and brings that fresh nutrient rich blood to the cells that need it the most. At the sub max effort, it provides the increased metabolite flush without increased muscle soreness as well as giving the muscles and joints the opportunity to slow down instead of coming to a complete stop, which would cause metabolites to become stagnant within the muscles and joints and be eliminated slowly. Some people say that it is also a way to flush lactic acid, which I will reserve for another article as there seems to some debate about lactic acid and muscles soreness. The message is that a proper cool down with active recovery and static stretching will decrease post-exercise soreness.
2. Well Balanced Nutrition
Throughout this article I have mentioned how the circulatory system transports much needed nutrients to cells who need it for repair and proper function, as well as removing wastes the working cells produce. Some of these nutrients are manufactured within the body, but not all of them. Those nutrients such as proteins, fats, and carbohydrates need to be taken in, in the form of food. Our body is an amazing machine, but without the right types and amounts of certain fuels it cannot sustain proper function. Back to my automobile analogy, if you fill a gas powered car with diesel you're not going to get very far. It might work for a short time but then struggle all the way and eventually die. Same with our bodies; if we keep fuelling ourselves with the wrong types or amounts of food, we may be able to perform but not to our maximum potential. This relates to the recovery process as well. If our cells aren't provided with the best fuel to help repair them, it is going to take longer to recover and potentially result in injury or even illness. So a proper balanced nutrition plan is a key tool for maximizing recovery, and decreasing the time it takes to get back to training.
During sleep, 2 key elements to full recovery occur. The first is that the body is in a state of energy conservation. When you are sleeping, the body slows down any unnecessary energy expenditure, meaning, all systems in your body tend to slow down allowing for the extra energy that has now been saved to target its attention to where your body deems necessary. This gives the muscle cells time to repair and become stronger without having to exert the amount of energy they do during the day when their working hard moving the body during a game or training periods.
The second, key element of why sleep is so important for recovery is that when you're sleeping a hormone called Human Growth Hormone (HGH) is released. Here is a short list of the benefits of adequate naturally produced HGH.
-Increases muscles mass
-Cause an increase in calcium retention, which in turn stronger bones
-Increase production of protein, which is key for cellular repair
-Stimulates the immune system.
These are just four main benefits of HGH out of a lengthy list. Important to know is that HGH is secreted in abundance during sleep, in particular early sleep. In males, 60-70% of HGH is secreted during this time. Without the proper amount of sleep each night, the body is unable to utilize the benefits of all the other recovery techniques previously discussed in this article. So you see, it is imperative that you get a good night sleep, as sleep is the number one recovery tool we have at our disposal.
There we have it, my 5 key tools for proper exercise recovery. Thank you for taking the time to read my article and i hope you follow me to receive more tips on performance and recovery!