People get injured all the time. Some injuries are activity related, while others are result of freak accidents — like the friend of mine who rolled off his bed in his sleep and dislocated his shoulder. Many injuries are sports related, or are environmental injuries such as heat stress. That’s life!
Let’s start on the same page here. Sports injuries are not a badge of honor. Some recreational athletes will push past their threshold and get injured, then push some more. That’s being stupid, not heroic. Progress requires consistency, and being injured is the biggest enemy of consistency.
We have all heard of rehabilitation, the repetitive and slow specialized care and training that follows for a long period after after surgery, injury, or illness. Physical rehabilitation intends to restore your physical conditioning through improving your strength and mobility. This can also help you to get back in shape after long periods of forced inactivity or coming out of a sedentary lifestyle. Perhaps “prehab” may be a more effective solution in the long run?
“Prehab”, or prehabilitation, is a new concept in therapy and sports medicine. It’s a proactive approach to reduce the risk of injuries among athletes and resistance trainees.
Generally speaking, a pre-hab program consists of warming-up, stretching to full range of motion, a cardiovascular component like walking or swimming, and a resistance training component mixed with functional tasks.
Athletes of all levels should include a prehab program in their training. The more advanced the athlete, the greater the need for a prehab program. As an athlete’s body matures within a sport, their body adapts to the physical demands of training. Repetitive movements and the daily stresses of training cause negative effects within your body. This may cause tightness of muscle groups, imbalance of strength, coordination or muscle stabilization. These imbalances occur naturally with activity and are reinforced with each workout. These imbalances are often the root of many training injuries and may predispose athletes to greater risk of injury during training and competition.
There are three parts of your body that tend to be highly imbalanced. First, most people pay a lot of attention to their thighs, but their hamstrings receive far less attention. This can lead to hip and lower back problems. Similarly, the pectorals (chest) get a lot of attention as a glamour muscle, but the upper back and rear shoulder muscles can be neglected. This can lead to shoulder problems as well as spinal deformities and a permanent hunch, not to mention reduced shoulder mobility. Finally, many focus on their abs, but not their lower back. This puts your back at a greater risk of strains or injuries.
The “pre” part of “prehab” refers to the fact that you engage in this type of training before sustaining injuries. It’s intended to prevent future injuries rather than focusing on repairing current damage. By focusing on the imbalances, you can correct deficiencies before they become serious or lead to injuries.
So now, how do we prehab?
Foam rolling is a soft tissue therapy technique that can help improve an individual’s mobility in regards to flexibility and joint Range of Motion (ROM). Plus, post workout, foam rolling can also be used as a Regeneration tool to help an individual recover on a cellular level by means of assisting blood circulation that can deliver more nutrients to worked tissues as well as help extract metabolic waste from previous training sessions and exercise.
I’ve taken the liberty to include a very comprehensive site below about foam rolling at the end of this article.
There are also many other aid methods using many recovery tools and I would personally say, all tools are good, but it is up to the individual to really know how to use or apply them, and not causing more damage to the injury. Over-release can cause instability to the already weaken muscles or joints. If unsure, check with a proper professional like a physio.
Injuries that demand complete rest are not common. Most injuries in this category are spinal injuries, which usually require that you stay in bed for days or even weeks.
If you have a less serious injury, then train around it. Don’t be silly and go back to the gym and train through the pain to prove you are tough. If your shoulder is injured, train your legs, core, or even your other shoulder. If your knee is injured, train your upper body or your other leg.
A personalized Prehab program should address total body balance and consider sports specific needs. It balances the range of motion, strength, coordination and stabilization.
Comparing left to right, front to back, upper to lower body is the basic premise. Exercises and sports specific skills and drills are focused on an athlete’s weaknesses. The majority of prehab programs should focus on core strength, and coordination and stabilization of the hips, stomach and back “core”.
Core instability is common and is often due to the lack of a proper training program. Many athletes and coaches use traditional protocols of upper and lower body lifting or basic sprinting and lifting routines, outside of regular practice drills. This leaves the core without a direct focus or training routine.
There are many areas to train up and it would drive at a different focus for another article, so let’s leave that till next time.
Seek Professional Advice
If you suspect you have any form of weakness in your joints or muscles, or experiencing any pain, you should be screened for imbalances. Objective measurements of active range of motion and strength, biomechanical observation, past medical history, present health status and input from support staff should all be considered when designing a program. Such screening can be performed by the following professionals:
- Certified Sports Trainer
- Sports Therapist
I personally recommend my trusty physio who is super experienced and has worked with national athletes all over, Matt Winter from Integrative Physio.
Train smart guys!
From your friendly neighborhood guide,
Awesome links for further reading:
Foam Rolling: http://www.prehabexercises.com/foam-rolling/