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The 3 Pillars of Injury Prevention

Updated: Mar 14

Recovering from an injury

Reducing the risk of injury is a vital topic to discuss when working with any athlete or gym enthusiast. The following 3 points of discussion are tried and true in the current literature for reducing rates of injury, let me give you a hint, it’s not cold plunging every day (jokes!). I’m writing this blog more so from the top of my head, so forgive me for the lack of citations. This is what I tell my patients almost daily. Also, if you’d like more studies/research cited, let me know, I have them.

1. Load Management- Load is described as any stressor to the body, in a way, you can call this “stress management”. These can be various physiological, mechanical and PSYCHOLOGICAL stressors applied to the human biological system. Oftentimes, we think of loads as external physical loads applied to the body. These external physical loads, often manipulated in exercise programs/training programs through adjusting the many variables we know, (exercise selection, exercise order, sets, reps, tempo, rest period, load selection, volume etc.) are what comes to mind when we think of “managing training loads.” In other words, we gradually progress the client/patient accordingly in order to not “over stress” the body leading to injury or pain. It’s all about smart progressions with a properly progressed plan in place (a weekly training plan for example).

stress management

Obviously, these are extremely important in the world of sports medicine, but I want to emphasize the importance of psychological stress as an “internal load” as it is often overlooked. Biopsychosocial factors need to always be taken into account when working with a client/patient. It may be hard to remember, but if you have ever been injured or had some type of pain flare up, they often coincide with stressful periods in your life. Emotional distress, work stress, relationship stress, these are all stressing your system as well, bleeding into other areas of life. The area of psychology isn’t exactly my expertise however it’s important to mention. Find whatever stress management strategies work for you and continually do your best in making them a priority.

2. Emphasizing Recovery- Recovery encompasses the many variables we can mostly control however are often put aside due to our busy lives. Instead, we sometimes rely on various “hacks” and quick fixes. The human body needs to recover from all the stresses we put it through in a day, if not we feel like poop (that’s a medical term) and it spreads into other areas of our life. A fighter needs to recover from one sparring session to the next, a powerlifter needs to not burn out his nervous system squatting super heavy every day. There are many examples of needing to recover from one day to the next for whatever physical activity or sport you do. The 4 main aspects of recovery I emphasize to my athletes are (sorry they aren’t super sexy), SLEEP, NUTRITION, HYDRATION AND STRESS.

Appropriately hydrate to boost injury recovery

Stress we just talked about so I won’t get extremely detailed on it. Just make sure to do your best to find strategies that help manage life’s stresses for you. The other 3 also need to be emphasized to ensure you feel good the next day and next training session. You need to appropriately hydrate and fuel your body to feel as close to 100% “recovered” as you can. There is also plenty of research on how good quality/consistent sleep decreases your risk of injury. Focus on these 4, find the best ways to manage them, and I promise you will feel much more recovered. (my post on “4 Things I Tell Every Patient” goes into more detail on these).

3. Constructing an Effective Warm up- Ever walk into the gym and see people just do some arm circles or 1 set of light weights for 2 minutes as their “warm up” prior to lifting weights? Right, that’s not an effective warm up. There’s enough research to say an effective and specific warm up helps reduce the rate of injury. The easiest way I explain a warm up to my patients (mainly combat athletes and active individuals) is you need to be raising your tissue/body temperature (possibly a light sweat), raising your heart rate and preparing your body for the specific movements you will be doing.

Lady doing cardio warm ups

A very general formula for a warm up can be the following. First, is a light cardio warm up (low impact cardio for 5-10 mins), then some self soft tissue release/mobilization (foam rolling or lacrosse ball to areas that are known to cause restriction) and lastly dynamic flexibility or “activation” drills that are specific to what you are doing that day. Dynamic work for a boxer for example may include shoulder circles, neck mobility exercises and calf bounces all leading into some sport specific “activation” work (light shadow boxing/padwork) prior to sparring.

Moreover, one last often overlooked reason to warm up is mental preparation. Going into a training session you might have brain fog from life’s stressors, warming up and “priming” your body gets you engaged and grounds you to the task at hand. It deepens your focus on training, which creates a more effective training session overall.

Static stretching

One last thing to touch on is static stretching. While there is almost no research or evidence suggesting static stretching decreases risk of injury, I’m also not one to say stretching is completely useless. More so, it can be effective in “down regulating” the nervous system and decreasing muscle tension for a period of time. Examples of when to use static stretching include stretching as a night time routine or a cool down after a workout. Slow, deep nasal breathing stretches are good stress relief (yoga anyone?). Remember how important stress relief is? Everything works together don't forget, you can't separate the systems of the body. Stretching gets a bad reputation in the performance world these days but it can be used on an individual basis (it depends right?).

Thanks for reading, this was a quick post but hope you got some value from it, let me know if there’s anything else I can add. Dr. G


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