Pre-season training pitfalls – avoid sudden spikes in activity
Updated: Aug 14, 2018
Every year in September, Physiofit see a sudden increase in injuries linked to the sudden return to sport after a long summer break. Many clubs and schools hold pre-season training to prepare athletes for the onset of the new season and the result can often be “too much too soon” for muscles, tendons and bones. Most athletes are naturally competitive and their determination to gain selection and prove they are fit often leads to players pushing their bodies beyond the safe zone resulting in injury.
The body has the most amazing capacity to adapt to any stress or load placed on it providing that it has time to do so. Both adults and children are susceptible to injury if there is insufficient time spent gradually building up to the required work load.
If you want to be ready in September to play 70 minutes hockey or 90 minutes of soccer then you need to gradually build up the volume and intensity now. If you have been doing very little running over the summer months, then it is important to start slowly and integrate some cross training with cycling, rowing or swimming.
To be ready to play in team sports will depend upon your position. The demands of each position vary dramatically and are specific to each team substitution patterns and player rotations. Typically forwards in hockey for example, need to train to be able to multiple high intensity sprints ensuring they cover the distances experienced in a match situation. Midfielders and central defenders often cover greater distances of around 8km with fewer high intensity bursts, so training should be player and position specific.
Begin by doing some interval training with short runs if you have not done much running since last season. Gradually pick up the speed, distance and intensity but not all in one session. Try to vary only one of these variables within a session so it is easier to calculate and record the level of training. The average volume of the last 4 weeks activities determines the load you can safely perform this week plus 10% whether in the gym lifting weights or running. With such small increases advisable with each session, it is vital to start as soon as possible. Research has shown that as little as a 15% increase is enough to increase your injury risk substantially. Make sure you factor rest days in to allow the body to recover and adapt and become stronger.
Communication is vital. Take a wall planner of spreadsheet and plot out the school/club/county games and training sessions planned for the next 6 weeks. Add up the number of minutes that you could be playing and assess whether that represents a 10% increase based on your previous level of activity in recent weeks. If you identify bottlenecks, talk to your coaches and ask them to help you prioritise what you should play in and when you should rest. Sometimes, it is possible to still train but lower the intensity. To increase your load suddenly represents one of the greatest risks of injury.
Types of injury
In growing athletes, the bone is still developing and is not as strong therefore as the tendon. They therefore tend to get injuries such as Sever’s Disease where the achilles tendon inserts in to the heel bone causing younger children to have a bruised feeling in their heel. Slightly older children are more susceptible to Osgood Schlatter’s Disease where the big quadriceps muscle group in the front of the thigh attaches to the top of the shin bone creating a prominent lump. The equivalent injury in an adult where the bone is more robust will result in a tendon injury such as patella tendinopathy (jumpers knee) or achilles tendinopathy.
The other type of injury that can occur because of sudden spikes in workload at the beginning of a new season are stress fractures, typically in the shin, foot or lower back. Current research would suggest that as the benefits of this lovely summer disappear, levels of Vitamin D will become depleted and it is worth considering supplementing the diet of those who live in northern England.
Get strong to play strong.
The better conditioned an athlete becomes, the stronger level of protection against injury. Most amateur athletes tend to spend greater time sitting at school or work than they do being active so the muscles in the back of the leg (calf and hamstrings) tend to get short and the glut muscles in your buttocks tend to get weak and overstretched. The result can be recurrent calf and hamstring strains. Focus on learning to activate the glut muscles in postures specific to your sport. If you want to identify where your current weaknesses are, Physiofit offer a screening programme and will design you a pre-season programme to get you in top form for the new year. Do ask us for more details.
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