Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Injuries- What are they, how do we avoid them, and how do we treat them

So with the boys and girls club volleyball season underway, men's collegiate volleyball is ramping up, women's college programs are getting their spring seasons going and many other sports are in the middle of their season or just getting going, injuries will always be the topic of discussion. "If we can stay healthy, we'll be good" or "well, we're battling through some injuries right now..." are usually the first things that come out of a coach's mouth when asking about their team.

There are generally two types of injuries related to sports, traumatic and chronic. Traumatic injuries are the sprained ankles, torn ACL's, etc where you can point to one specific incident that caused the injury. The type, chronic injuries, are a bit trickier.  Any type of pain (and remember aching muscles and soreness from working out are different than injury pain) is a red flag and warning from your body. Tendinitis is an inflammation, also called an overuse injury usually treated by rest, ice, stretching and anti-inflammatories like ibuprofen. When was the last time your coach, athletic trainer, or anyone ever said, "Hmmm, I wonder what is causing this?" This, unfortunately, it does not happen often enough. Maybe if you go to a physical therapist they will help strengthen the affected area and supporting muscle groups but rarely will they take the athlete through corrective measures to prevent the future re-occurrence.

Without getting into specific mechanics of movements (that's definitely another topic for another time), make sure you not only treat the symptoms of the injury, but treat the cause as well.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Stretching- Myths vs. Facts

You walk in to practice, or a gym to work out, or in to an open gym setting. First thing you have probably been conditioned to do and what you've heard probably 1000's of times is: "Make sure you stretch before you practice/workout so you don't pull a muscle." 

Well, where do muscle pulls come from? There is counting evidence that they don't come from "not stretching before practice." They do come from improper warm ups, but they can also come from muscular imbalances and general inflexibility in certain muscle groups. There is a lot of research coming out against pre-practice stretching and the physiology involved. Here is a great article (amongst many) further illustrating this based on previous research: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/02/sports/playmagazine/112pewarm.html?_r=3&oref=slogin

So instead of stretching, why not use this time to go through a skill warm up involving the required movements of your sport or activity? Research has shown that movement is what is important for a proper warm up. In volleyball, I like to run my teams through a dynamic fitness warm up involving both strengthening movements (different combinations of dynamic movements, push-ups, squats, jumping, core strength, etc) in conjunction with skill movements, technical activities and footwork that will reinforce the techniques and movement patterns we want from our players. 

This can be applicable to all sports. If you are a basketball player, use dribbling and shooting sequences to start moving around rather than stretching. Lacrosse? Pass and shoot and work on technique as you warm up. Swimming? Go through the proper arm motion before getting in the water. Same thing with water polo. This goes on and on for all sports.

This is further evidenced with strength training. You wouldn't go in right away, stretch, then and try to bench press, squat, clean, etc. a heavy amount without first building up to it or doing several warm-up sets. 

So not only will a dynamic skill warm-up specifically warm up your athletes, but it also gives you, as the coach, way more opportunities to respond on technical correction. The best time to reinforce technical corrections is early on in practice as the athletes minds are fresh and most able to absorb information and feedback given to them. 

The best time to stretch is after practice. This allows the lactic acid build up in the muscles to clear up quicker, improving recovery time and, because the muscles are already warmed up, it gives the athlete an opportunity to now work on flexibility. It is also a more relaxed time to reflect on his or her performance during practice, allows much needed team bonding time, and an opportunity for both the coaches and players to give feedback on practice as well. 


Monday, January 3, 2011

Resolutions: Why they don't work and how you can make them stick!

So with the New Year just a few days old, everyone always talks about "New Year Resolutions" and how one is going to do things differently for this year. And we all know it takes what, about 2 weeks for these resolutions to be forgotten, just like the year past? Well here is why....Resolutions are goals. Plain and simple and they need to be treated as such but rarely they are.

Goals, when they are set, must be tangible, realistic, challenging, definable and most importantly attainable. When someone says my New Years Resolution is to lose 20 lbs., or stop smoking, or be nicer to people, or whatever, these are all great but....no one ever sets a step by step plan of how to get to these goals. Goals are journeys, nothing more, nothing less. And along each journey we must have a step by step map of how we are going to get there and checkpoints along the way to see how we are doing. If you are driving from Florida to California, you'd better expect the journey to take some time, you can't drive there in an hour or two, yet you can't exactly give up. Why do that with goals or resolutions?

If your goal is to lose weight, write down the amount of weight you want to lose, when you want to lose it by, how you are going to lose it (workouts, eating habits, etc) and have checkpoints where you can monitor your progress. Then you must also have a plan in place to keep the weight off. Why lose 20 lbs. when you're just going to put it back on again? Checkpoints are very important because they will help you from getting discouraged. Let's go back to our weight loss example since that is a pretty popular resolution. If you want to lose 20lbs., and you're working our really hard, at the end of a week, and you've lost just 2 lbs., well that can get pretty discouraging and some people can give up. Well, if we set our check point at 3 lbs by the end of week 1 and we've lost 2 lbs, well, 2 is a LOT closer to 3 then it is to 20 and we feel more encouraged and keep plugging along.

If your goal is to stop smoking, you will need help. That is step 1. Step two,  don't try and stop altogether. Just start cutting back. Week 1 could be smoke 1 or 2 cigarettes fewer. Week 2, 1 more fewer than the previous week, and so on and so one until you realize, you don't need them anymore. (With a goal like this, you will definitely need help from friends. Preferably ones who DON'T smoke!)  Similarly, people say I want to eat healthier, or no more fast food, or no more junk food. Well, are these really realistic? The way our society is set up with everything cheap, easy, fast, etc. I tend to say no (yes, I will partake in the occasional fast food indulgence). However, just like with anything we want to do less of, start off small. Maybe cut back to 1 or 2 times per week. Or have a cheat day where the rest of the week you are eating healthier, whole foods and have one day to let loose (make sure you stick to this day. Don't cheat two days in a row and say I'll make it up next week ;) This is a great way to help lose weight also in our earlier example.

Here's the other problem I have with resolutions...why wait til January 1? If you want to make a life change, or set a goal for something, start NOW. Don't wait. Put a plan in place, set your checkpoints, and DO IT.

Lastly, when setting out to do something, get someone else to do it with you. Challenge each other, keep each other focused and motivated and try to get someone that inspires you (or be someone that can inspire others!!). Any journey undertaken is always easier when you have a team of people accomplishing a goal.

For more information on goal setting, feel free to email me at mitch@bio-genix.com

Happy 2011 everyone. Now let's go set some goals!!!

Mitch Sadowsky
VP of Operations