By Postmedia SEO
The only thing worse for an athlete than an injury, is re-injuring yourself again shortly after. Re-injury usually happens because one limb is weaker than the other, creating an unbalanced load. To prevent this, many experts recommend ensuring you are back to at least 80% strength before becoming active again.
With some injuries though, it can be hard to gauge what 80% feels like. It’s also pretty easy (while playing) to slip back into giving it 100% without realizing; it is, after all, what’s in your nature.
So how do you find the right balance to speed up your recovery and eliminate the risk of re-injury? This guide should help.
LISTENING TO YOUR BODY
Athletes strive for excellence and are always trying to exceed their limits. One of the most common reasons injuries happen in the first place is because the athlete mistook an injury as muscle soreness. Paying attention to how long the pain has been lingering and how it feels during light activity is important. This is why it’s good to listen to your body when you’re playing well, so you know what normal muscle soreness should feel like.
A periodization plan is the ultimate guide for an athlete. It strategically designs your workload to maximize peak condition for competition. It ensures the athlete is exposed to the right loads at the right time. Mismanaging loads leads to over training, plateaus in performance, and/or injury.
The amount of strategizing that goes into a periodization plan is why it’s perfect for recovery as well. We learned earlier that an unbalanced load is one of the biggest reasons re-injury occurs. Using your plan and paying attention to how you feel will allow you to monitor the balance between the workload you’re taking on and the amount of work you’re actually able to manage.
STRENGTH TRAINING AND MORE
Strengthening programs significantly reduce sport injuries by about 35% and overuse injuries by 50%. It’s important to include a variety of strength exercises with agility, balance and plyometric exercises. This combination is proven to be the most effective at lowering injury rates.
Plyometric exercises are used to increase speed, strength and endurance. They require quick muscle exertions repeatedly in a short amount of time. A box jump or lateral hops are great examples. Plyometrics has been proven to protect the knee during dynamic movements — movements which can cause injury. They also improve landing technique by ensuring correct biomechanics and a reduction in strained joints.
Athletes in training are likely to experience an injury due to overuse because they run repeated drills or exercises. Overuse injuries also happen when you take on too much too quickly; a regular occurrence for those who are fairly inactive during the off-season.
One of the best ways to prevent overuse is to cross train. As mentioned above, a variety of exercises such as plyometrics and strength training are important, but preventing an overuse injury is another great reason to do these exercises. Cross training prevents your body from focusing on just one area. Including an assortment of low-impact activities, such as swimming, biking, and walking help you prevent overloading one muscle group during recovery.
The importance of competition is why athletes may not follow recommendations during recovery. It’s hard to remember the big picture when your priority has always been to win right now. Having an attentive coach/parent/spouse or teammate there to remind you to “take it easy” and “listen to your body” will be especially helpful in preventing reinjury.