Athletes! Why do you keep getting injured or having recurring niggles!? Jade Blake, Senior Physiotherapist at Physo4Life (www.physio4life.co.uk) looks at some of the common causes of injury – but also some simple steps and advice to help minimise their impacts.
Why is it that top athletes that are classed as the fittest in the world still get injured?
With impact sport this is more likely, however as you can see in the above picture, there is no element of contact involved in this injury. This can be the same as a hamstring strain or an achilles tendon rupture. It is the shear imbalance of forces that cause this to happen. It is also a lot more common in the lower limb than the upper limb.
If you’ve got an injury or had an injury in the past, it is important to look at the whole picture in the frame, not just the one focussed area.
- Core stability / neuromuscular control / lumbar spine strength
- Stretching / relaxation / yoga
- Hamstring to quadriceps ratio
Examples of injury causes
We are educated on the perfect biomechanics, but lets face it, the majority of the population will have something ‘wrong’. For example, an anteriorly tilted pelvis – which is a result of tight hips; very common in athletes – then increases the constant length that your hamstrings are having to maintain, making them more vulnerable to injury due to the constant overload of them.
Another example would be having a weak gluteus medius which control the external rotation of the hip. If this is not strong it will allow your leg to collapse in when running making the scenario above slightly more likely, as well as a quadriceps and hamstring muscle power imbalance.
Another example is tight adductors, which evidence has also shown to prove makes the hamstring more vulnerable to being susceptible to injury.
Pronation of the feet (flat feet) is another that will cause more pressure on the inside of the knee, potentially putting more strain on the medial collateral ligament.
The reasoning for all these examples is to home in on the importance of not just focussing on the knee or the ankle or the hamstring, but the whole picture.
Addressing the causes of injuries
As a professional athlete you will have help with all of this, but if you are balancing your training alongside the day job, it is something you’re going to have to be aware of yourself and be able to manage alongside playing the sport and your working life.
Any of you have reoccurring hamstring niggles or knee problems that are stopping you from being able to train and enjoy the whole season? Try and follow these simple steps…
1. Strength & Gym work
Make time for strength and gym work, NOT just your training sessions 1-2 times a week. For weight lifters, yes weight is good for your strength, but it is also important to concentrate on your balance and core as this is in high demand when you’re playing sport at speed and changing direction. Even some of the top athletes don’t have this right and don’t do enough of your low level core / pilates exercises. Guys you may think this is for girls, but it’s not, it is important for you to be able to maintain an all round fitness.
2. Postural Awareness
Postural awareness in sitting, standing and walking: you can easily have this assessed or looked at by a Physiotherapist that will give you the exact areas that you need to work on and the correct strengthening exercises. Recreational athletes, I know a lot of you tend to have a desk job when not playing sport, so it is important that you are posture aware so it doesn’t affect you when playing sport.
3. Pull Push Exercises
Balance your push pull exercises in the gym or if anything work slightly more your posterior chain as this is used less in everyday life and harder to maintain: glutes, hamstring and mid to lower back. For example if this isn’t an area that you focus on you’ll be more quad dominant when running and an example like pictured above may happen as the deceleration of the hamstring didn’t come into play enough, causing the shift in the knee to put pressure through the ligaments in the knee.
4. Make time to cool down!
Yep as simple as that.
5. Tightness of Neural Tension?
If you’re feeling tight through your muscles, for example down the back of your leg, is this just muscle tightness or is it neural tension? There are different tests that can be used to test this: slump test is one, see picture below.
If you feel pain on the ‘stretch’ that you feel when doing this test it is likely that you are neurally tight, not just the muscle.
6 . Active Recovery
Have an active recovery day. Swimming… If you don’t enjoy swimming (duathletes!), as I know it’s not for everyone, try Yoga… Again guys, I know it might not sound like something that is up your street, but there are different variations and hot yoga is always good to make you feel like you’ve had slightly more of a work out from sweating. This will just allow you to focus on stretching out your muscles and giving them the TLC they need especially with the weather conditions becoming a lot harsher in the last couple of weeks.
- Warm up
- Cool down
- Posture awareness
- Reduce neural tension
- Seek advice from a physio
- Active recovery day
- Strength training once per week minimum, to include balance and core.
- Work muscles evenly