You probably have heard it before "Just do this exercise to bulletproof your knees" or "just buy my program to prevent shoulder injuries". Not only is injury prevention and bulletproofing not possible, but it is misleading and a scare tactic by coaches and professionals who know better.
First off, we need to acknowledge the fact that sometimes shat happens. We love to talk about biomechanics and predisposing factors to injury in the sports medicine field. The experts talk about "faulty mechanics", lack of sleep, poor nutrition, and poor training habits as the reason for their injury. While, these can certainly be factors, some times it is just bad luck. Stepping on an opponents foot, slipping slightly as you planted on the wet grass, landing on your shoulder after diving for a ball are often times unavoidable causes of injury regardless of how many "glute activation" drills you do. Sure your sleep or biomechanics may have played a role in your injury, but to totally blame the one or the other and claiming we have the secret sauce to fix you is both untrue and unrealistic. I prefer to use the term injury mitigation. We are decreasing the likelihood of injury but by no means guaranteeing a bulletproofing of your joints.
STIMULUS & ADAPTATION
To understand injury prevention we need to understand stimulus and adaptations. When we back squat we are introducing a stimulus to the human body. In response to the stimulus (back squatting), the human body adapts to that stimulus. Your body essentially levels up the system each time it is exposed to a stimulus. These adaptations include improved lower body strength, coordination, and muscle mass. The greater the stimulus (heavy back squat) the greater the adaptation. The lesser the stimulus (banded glute walks) the lesser the adaptation. A strong individual will have a high stimulus threshold and require a larger stimulus to illicit an adaptation. A untrained individual will have a lower stimulus threshold and will adapt to lower stimulus activities. Now lets apply that line of thinking to our current injury prevention model.
Most prehab and injury prevention exercises are doing hardly anything for you. A lot of these exercises involve balancing on a bosu ball or a glute band around your knees to really "activate" sleeping or dormant muscles. While I understand the idea, these exercises are not a strong enough stimulus to truly illicit an adaptation in the human body. Sports are played at high speeds, processing hundreds of variables in milliseconds. Sports are an extremely high stimulus while many of our prehab exercises are so low of a stimulus that the adaptations are minimal to none.
One of my colleagues used this analogy which I think helps, our sport is like rock and roll music, while your injury prevention program is like smooth jazz . The rock music will always drown out the smooth jazz. We need to elevate our training to the rock and roll level if we want to truly make changes - and yes this can be done safely and at all levels.
We expect exercises like this (soft jazz): not enough speed, force of variability
To prepare us for this (rock and roll): note this is without defense and in pregame
Nah fam. We got to raise the bar a bit if we expect to make a difference.
ROCK & ROLL BABY
Here are some methods we use to raise the bar and make some actual differences toward injury mitigation.
Get STRONG on two legs.
Your traditional exercises like back/front squat and deadlift are great tools to get strong! Strength is the number one way to decrease likelihood of injury.
Get STRONG on one leg:
We like to use Rear Foot Elevated Split Squat and Skater Squat variations for our single leg strength.
Train through a full range of motion (ROM):
We want to develop strength through full length! This will not only strengthen your muscles but will actually strengthen your ligaments and tendons.
Hop on one leg A LOT:
We spend a lot of time on one leg in our sports. We highly recommend spending a lot of time on one leg in your training as well.
Change up your plyometrics:
Box jumps are great and we use box jump variations frequently, however we are always changing up which plyometrics we use.
Nothing raises the bar like an isometric hold. These are HUGE for strength and coordination. You can go heavy for short durations or you can go light for longer durations.
These are just a few exercises you could use, but it is much more important to understand the concepts behind the exercise rather than the actual exercise itself.
You can prepare perfectly and still get hurt. Shat happens.
There are thousands of variables involved in an injury. Don't believe the myth that you got hurt purely because of X.
Most injury prevention programs are not a strong enough stimulus to adequately prepare you for your sport.
To give our bodies a fighting chances we need to get strong through a full ROM, we need to hop a lot, spend time on one foot, and really get strong isometrically.
Thats all folks. Hit me up if you have any questions or feedback!
Big Cat out🦁