Avoiding issues with your body tissues
15 June 2020
Training your tissues for return to sport
There’s no denying we are very excited for the return to sport in Perth over the next few weeks. Regardless of if that’s a contact sport like football or rugby, non-contact (apparently) sports like netball and hockey or a return to the pool, track or gym, there will be a period where your body is being exposed to different stimulus compared to during the Covid lockdown. We thought we would run through the tissues most likely to be affected with return to sport, as well as how to minimise your injury risk. Before we get into the specifics just remember that the highest risk factor for getting an injury is having previously had that injury, so if you have previously had an Achilles tendon problem or shin splints, chances are higher of you getting it again.
When you increase the loading too quickly through your skeletal system, you can develop stress related injuries to your bones. This occurs on a continuum from a stress reaction (which is like a bruise to the bone), to a stress fracture. If you offload the bone at any point before it turns into a full fracture, you can reverse the bone stress. The most common sites we see stress fractures in running sports are the navicular and metatarsal bones in the feet, and the tibia and the fibula in the lower leg. A few factors to take into account when trying to minimise your risk for bone stress injuries;
- Do not increase your running distance too quickly (take into account how much running you have done over the break, and increase your running distance accordingly – 10% per week may be a good place to start).
- Make sure you have appropriate footwear- if you have worn the same trainers or boots for the last few seasons, or if the orthotics have been lost sometime last season, updating these may save you a lot of pain and time on the sideline.
- Think about the surfaces you are training on. Luckily after the recent rains most footy fields should be relatively soft, but if you have done all of your Covid training on grass and you now need to return to the court, slowly increase your running exposure on the harder surface.
- If your fitness isn’t great, rather than adding lots and lots of running into your week to try and play catch-up, think about cross training like riding a bike or swimming to minimise a spike in impact loading.
Tendons love consistent loading, and dislike sudden increases in load so you can imagine how a return to training may flare-up tendon issues. In the lower body patella and Achilles tendons are the most common sites, for the upper body tendons like the rotator cuff and biceps tend to be the culprits. Despite having had a past-history the other most common risk factor is age – the older you are the more likely you are to suffer from a tendon complaint. To minimise your risk of tendon issues you need to try;
- Not increasing your training load too quickly- whether that’s running, laps in the pool, or overloading in the gym.
- Minimise plyometric (jumping/landing/bounding) training. For most people a return to normal training will be enough load on the tendons. Rather than also adding additional plyometric training, add some slow and steady strength work or cross train where possible for fitness.
As mentioned earlier, the highest risk factor of doing a muscle tear is a previous muscle tear so if you have history, you need to ensure you are doing ongoing strength exercises to minimise your risk. The majority of muscle strains will happen later a game or training, when you are fatigued but may also happen earlier in the session if you haven’t warmed up appropriately or are exposed to an intensity of training (such as speed) your body hasn’t seen for some time! To minimise your risk of muscle injury;
- Do strength work (ask your physio for the best exercises to minimise injury risk- not all strength exercises are equal)
- Make sure you warm-up appropriately
- Do the right things for recovery (sleep, nutrition, active cool down and roll out tight areas) to minimise muscle soreness and fatigue
- Speed exposure – you must consider this if your sport involves speed. Research shows you are less likely to have a soft tissue injury if your body is exposed to >90% speed 1-2/week.
For most, this will be a short season and you want to try and keep your body happy so you can play as many games as possible. Add to that the fact that to win you need to have your best players available. Train to your current fitness levels and if you start to get any niggles, get them seen to sooner rather than later. The sooner you get onto managing niggles, the less game time you will miss.
Any issues in your tissues – we are here to help! Otherwise enjoy getting back into sport! I know we can’t wait…