Jul 17 2014

Training the Team Athlete to Prevent Injury

Are you constantly getting injured? Struggling through pre-season workouts with joint and muscle pain?  Maybe you are nervous about playing at the College level?  Most likely you are not prepared well enough for your upcoming season.

Many athletes at the high school and college level don’t understand the importance of year-round strength training.  Some athletes decide they don’t need to begin exercising until they become injured or are returning from surgery.  In most cases, these injuries could have been prevented with proper movement patterns and the correct strength training programs.  As a Certified Athletic Trainer and Personal Trainer at Dogma Athletica, I believe the most important piece of an athlete’s season is injury prevention. 

Looking at the injury report for almost all team sports, studies show an increase in most injuries during pre-season or during the first month of the season.  This usually occurs because preseason is a time where players are competing for starting positions and trying to demonstrate their mental toughness. It is also a time when new training routines and playing styles may be implemented.  Most importantly, the physical demands of pre-season can be quite high and some players may not be adequately prepared. For fall sports, the off-season training period leading up to pre-season workouts occurs during the summer months and is often unsupervised. Thus, athlete fitness levels may not meet the coach’s expectations. For incoming freshmen unfamiliar with collegiate fall sports, this can be a major problem.

You may be thinking that your injuries occur because you play a contact sport or that, “I only get hurt in games.”  In sports traditionally associated with player contact, such as football, men's ice hockey, men's lacrosse, and even wrestling, the difference in injuries sustained during practice versus injuries sustained during games occur is that during in-season practices, coaches tend to work more on skill and less on muscle conditioning and specific game-type movements.  By strength training in season, athletes can continue to develop strength and speed using sport specific movements, which not only reduces the risk of injury in practices, but also in games.  This is why most coaches tell you to practice as hard as you would play the game. 

Sports that are traditionally considered non-contact do not have such dramatic differences between practice and game injuries. However, one typically noncontact sport, women's gymnastics, has injury rates in the same range as those considered contact sports.  Most injuries in non-contact sports occur when an athlete is cutting or changing direction. (These injuries are also very common in contact sports, though.) With proper muscle conditioning and central nervous system training, the chance for this type of injury can be reduced. 

In both contact and non-contact sports, all types of injuries can occur.  The lower extremity is where most reported injuries in both contact and non-contact sports occur, justifying particular emphasis on prevention efforts. The best way to prevent injuries is to identify risk factors for a particular sport then to implement injury prevention measures. This should be a high priority, no matter the activity.

As a team sport athlete, especially fall sports, it is important to train to correct any imbalances in the body by improving mobility, full-body strength and explosive sports-specific movement.  Since most injuries happen in practice during preseason, beginning your training 4-6 weeks before this time will benefit any athlete in becoming more prepared for their upcoming season.  The more prepared you are before the season begins the less likely you are to become injured. 

At Dogma Athletica, we can perform functional movement screening in conjunction with other tests to determine an athlete’s preseason capabilities. We then build individualized exercise and nutrition plans based on the client’s needs, to improve areas of deficiency, reducing the risk of injury in preseason and early season fall sports. No matter how talented an athlete is, if they are injured, they can’t help the team!  Schedule a time to see one of Dogma’s highly qualified experts to get the preseason treatment every fall athlete needs. Call (970) 688-4433 or visit www.dogmaathletica.com for more information.


Written by Bryan Maroney, Dogma Athletica Certified Trainer & General Manager