Injury Prevention – The Missing Piece
Clients often say to us “we wouldn’t need to see you if we didn’t train our bodies and keep fit playing sports!”. In a funny roundabout way, they are often absolutely right, but commonly because they are neglecting a vital part of readying the body for activity. When we assess and treat someone who comes into clinic, we are looking not only to restore them to the level they were exercising prior to coming to see us, but to prepare them for any other challenges that they might want to put their bodies through.
In this information piece, we are going to have a look in more detail at injury mechanism, more importantly prevention and particularly the missing piece of the puzzle.
Two forms of injury
As a rule of thumb, there are 2 common forms of injury 1) contact injury and 2) overuse / overload injury.
Contact injuries are common when playing sport but can happen by accident in any activity in life. They are the result of an impact or a forced movement to the body. Think football tackle - kick in the leg, falling off a bike or twisting the leg in a ski boot. They tend to result in bruises, muscle / ligament tears or worse. All of these actions are hard to protect against, but keeping the body balanced, fit and strong will encourage the best control of the joints and skeletal structures.
Overload / overuse injuries are the result of areas of the body being overburdened. This can be due to increased repetition of loading (for example increasing running distance / frequency too fast for the body to cope with), asymmetrical loading or using certain joints / muscles repeatedly at the extremes of their movement. Once again, keeping the body balanced, fit and strong will encourage best control of the joints and skeletal structures.
So, what is the missing piece? Understanding one’s body, how is moves and what it is doing wrong is the key element that is missing. Truly understanding the why behind the breakdown of a body and the how to resolve it and protect against further damage is paramount to preparing for any exercise or sport. What areas of the body need to move better in order to decrease overload / overuse? What part of the movement that we are doing is breaking down and are we even aware of this when we are training / exercising? Is the body mobile and controlled moving in all directions in order to avoid an impact / minimise forces exerted upon it?
The musculoskeletal system of the body is a complex system of levers and pulleys. When one lever tightens, putting strain on a pulley, it causes counter strain elsewhere, which then tightens another lever, straining another pulley and so the knock-on effect continues.
Mirror, mirror on the wall
These postural imbalances can be seen in us all with a scrutinising look in the mirror. If you do nothing else after reading this article, we would suggest that standing in front of the mirror and looking at how well you truly stand is a great starting point. If you can drop a plumb line down the centre of the mirror, all the better.
Important note - No one is expected to stand symmetrically, but just gaining an understanding of where your body likes to live relative to the plumbline might give an insight in to why exercising / playing sport may cause issues.
If you do get to stand in front of the mirror, test 3 different movements:
1) Stand on one leg then the other – does it look and feel the same (it is not necessarily the art of balancing but how the result is achieved!).
2) Turn your whole body to the right and then to the left. Does it feel and look the same? Again, it is not necessarily whether the rotation distance was the same but how it was achieved on each side.
3) Move the arms out to the side into ‘aeroplane position’. Look at the shoulders, does one elevate compared to the other e.g. raise up towards your ear? Once again does the movement ‘feel’ the same on each side.
These tests will allow you to benchmark how well you are moving, such that when you are training, you can assess whether the training that you are doing is improving your movement.
You will also become more in tune with how movement feels – and this is important to how well the body moves and thus whether you can minimise the possibility of overload / overuse injuries and give you the best movement and balance to avoid contact injuries.
By learning how the body feels when it is moving well, we can improve our fluency and control of movement. This control improves our balance, muscular engagement and therefore strength and ultimately the control of the joints and muscles. It is, simply the piece that is often missed from training and sport.