Updated: Aug 22, 2020
A major goal of any training programme is to prevent injury. Injury leads to missed competitions, a loss of training time and decrements in performance. The idea of strength and conditioning (S&C) for injury prevention is well established, however even within elite sport I see some common errors when it comes to this type of training:
The outcomes of the programme are not clearly defined
It is important to be specific about the aims of any training programme, even more so when it comes to injury as the consequences are more serious. Standard generic outcomes such as training for "stronger glutes" or a "stronger core" fail to give enough information when it comes to session design. Examples of more specific outcomes could be to improve the maximal eccentric strength of a particular muscle group or to develop the ability of the trunk to resist rotation at high velocities.
The movements are performed poorly
Understanding how technique in the gym affects biomechanics in your sport is crucial. Not only is poor technique in the gym dangerous itself, but practicing poor technique will also establish an impaired movement strategy that can increase your risk of injury in your sport as well.
The programme does not progress
Typically an injury prevention programme will start with light loads and some simple / general movements. But once the athlete has developed some strength what happens next is really important. It is essential the athlete must be progressed. There are many ways the body can become injured and more advanced training progresses the athlete to safeguarding themselves against a wider range of injury mechanisms that include higher forces and velocities.
To counter these errors and to build a truly effective injury prevention programme I have found that understanding the following four factors are essential:
How injuries happen
Injuries happen when the demands of the sport exceed the capacity of our bodies to handle them. Each structure in our body has a breaking point that can either be damaged in a moment or broken down slowly over time. This is the difference between acute and chronic injuries mechanisms. Furthermore, different structures in the body are at risk of different types of injury, for example a bone stress fracture, ACL rupture and tendon injury all occur for different reasons.
The risks of your sport
Each sport brings a different set of injury risks. When designing a successful injury prevention programme it is really important to have a knowledge of the most common injury risks and injury mechanisms in a particular sport (weak glutes do not count as an answer here). Whenever I work in a new sport I sit down with the medical staff and put together a list of the top ten injury risks and their mechanisms. Do you know what the top ten are for your sport?
Your own injury risks
You should build a profile of your own physical readiness against the injury risks of the sport. I break this analysis down to three areas: (1) physical structure (what you are made of); (2) biomechanics (how you move); and (3) physical capacity (your strength, power and fitness etc). All three overlap and influence each other and represent an overall injury risk. For example an athlete with very low muscle mass (structure) may not be strong enough (capacity) to move efficiently (biomechanics). I also gather information on their overall health. I have been involved in a number of programmes where the cause of an injury was initially mis-diagnosed against a more serious health issue which underlined the problem.
Injury is an opportunity
When I led the national rehabilitation S&C programme for the British Olympic Association we had a mantra for each athlete we worked with: "INJURY IS AN OPPORTUNITY". This meant that through the process of rehabilitating an injury you have the opportunity to come back stronger. Through injury you are given a unique chance to work on elements of your preparation that you may ignore in times of success. In fact many of the athletes we saw used injury as their gateway into a more serious approach to their training which had long term benefits on their performance. Injury prevention training carries the same massive opportunity too. What is also really important to understand is that the same physical qualities that prevent injury will actually help you perform better too. Embrace the opportunity!
If you have been injured or would like to put together an injury prevention programme for your sport please get in contact. You can be assessed remotely and will be given a specific programme alongside world class coaching via video call.