This is an important topic I have wanted to discuss for a while – since, after coaching youth basketball athletes for the past 6-7 years I have repeatedly seen players injure, reinjure and become generally injury prone because they have lazily managed the injuries they end up with.
Getting injured is an unfortunate reality of any sport. There are plenty of strategies you can use in prehab and load management around improving stability, motor control and strength, that will greatly reduce your chances of injury, all of which we teach, however there are always times where it is unavoidable i.e. Landing on a foot after jumping for a rebound and rolling an ankle (Basketball is one of the highest injury-risk sports that people play).
There are two things I want you to understand which will help you with being a more durable athlete, or returning to full strength if you are currently injured.
Firstly, there are two types of injury
- Unfortunate circumstance
Over-use injuries, in fact make up the majority of sporting injuries at the youth level and are now being seen at high levels at the professional level in rookies sparking discussion amongst league officials. The problem is, kids are getting a taste of the dream more than they used to, and more opportunities as sport has been growing leading to a higher focus on elite youth training and higher self motivated training volume and intensity. Kids in elite sport are pushing harder, for longer and are paying the price either at the time or early in their 20s.
I myself am a victim of this, having severe achillies tendonitis in both legs from age 20-22 then rupturing one at 25 after doing 3-a-days several days a week during my high school years, adopting a heavy training schedule on top of a full-time work schedule and neglecting any form of recovery intervention. When you’re a kid – you think you’re invincible.
The list of NBA rookies with injuries has been escalating in recent times prompting all kinds of discussions: https://www.espn.com/nba/story/_/id/27125793/these-kids-ticking-bombs-threat-youth-basketball?fbclid=IwAR3Tene8qrVf462grdGGRmrg6IIycujQvfd7VWUiZyEMo-9aF0yx3KEqeAA
That is why a big emphasis for us at SportsMechanics is to develop healthy practice of load management and athletic development through young ages, giving kids the tools and experience to potentially prevent these drastic occurrences. See below:
Secondly, youth athletes are often ignorant to what happens when they get injured. The general consensus I hear being – take some time off, heal, then your good to go. So for all the athletes reading this, know now! When you get injured, yes you take time off and let the injury heal – however, while you are healing and subsequently inactive for long periods of time, your muscles in the inactive spaces lose their tonicity and atrophy during that time. This means, when you return straight away, not only the injured area is weaker, but the surrounding supporting structures are too.
THEREFORE, you must take the time, doing daily strengthening exercises (yes the ones your physio always get you to do but you always “forget” to) to get the whole region back into shape with which you can play. This means:
- Strengthening the atrophied areas through resistance training and gradual progression back to athletic movements
- Restoring mechanics and movement patterns – Often and injured ankle will cause one to make an unconscious change to their landing or running pattern to protect the ankle. Unfortunately, such a change may put higher pressure on the connected knee which then injures from having to constantly deal from the higher loads unintentionally thrust upon it.
- Confidence must be regained in the injured area and its ability to move your weight. This is important for regaining full game performance after a serious injury.
It is important to realise that your limbs act as what we call a kinetic chain with each joint and their articulating muscles absorbing and producing the force of movement. Reduce the effectiveness of one part of the chain and the other parts have to pick up the slack.
When we teach motor patterns it is all about how to utilise this chain effectively to generate absorb force i.e. Many kids do not know how to jump and land utilising their hips, meaning every time they jump, more force is absorbed through their knees,ankles and lower back rather than their glutes and hamstrings which are the largest, strongest drivers of athletic ability.
So, some food for thought for those who are injured, and those who are pushing themselves to the brink of performance without any thought to whether or not their body is prepared for it. There are measures that can be taken to ensure great recoveries as well as long durable sporting careers. It just takes hard work, preparation, confidence in the process and some luck.
Catch you next time! - Coach Zac