How to do it concretely?
In the collective imagination, professional athletes are still likely to be injured: the ballerina with broken feet, the footballers dazed by concussions, the hockey players with damaged shoulders … It is considered that injuries in sport are inevitable, they are normal. Yet, with the exception of contact sports, injuries are most often caused by overuse rather than trauma. In an environment where we push athletes to constantly outdo their predecessors, it is understandable that they are more and more injured. Deconstructing the image of martyrs is therefore a major challenge, which requires us to review our goals as a coach, therapist and athlete. It is important to review our ways of conceptualizing and managing pain in training.
What to do when pain appears?
It is important to understand that, in most cases, pain is first and foremost an alarm signal. Its purpose is to warn the body that certain structures are becoming problematic. In athletes, the pain is not necessarily synonymous with injury. This pain must be interpreted as a warning to protect the overused area.
In the first place, when a pain appears, it is important to report it to your coach or teacher. When not injured, it must be ensured that the technique of the athlete performing a task is flawless. Obviously, this technique must be corrected and the athlete must have the strength and flexibility to support these corrections. In the event that the athlete cannot adapt to these corrections with the physical abilities he/she possesses, strengthening and stretching exercises may be beneficial. It must also be ensured that the motor control is adequate, that is to say that the muscular activation sequence is performed in the correct order.
For an injured athlete who has pain while training, it is important to follow the instructions of the therapist who is treating them. For athletes who are not followed by a therapist, there are still some general rules that may apply. It must be ensured that during training, only slight discomfort is reproduced. In addition, this discomfort should disappear in a window of 1 to 2 hours after physical activity. It is not a question here of delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), but of a pain which would have appeared during the training.
How to avoid pain?
Several studies exist to date on injury risk factors for athletes. These include eating disorders, fatigue, obsessive passion, deficits in muscle strength and lumbopelvic stability.
According to a literature review, athletes with eating disorders are twice as likely to be injured. This could be explained by the decrease in available energy, thus limiting the growth and repair of the athlete’s tissues.
During competition, it was found that the quality of sleep was lower, affecting the level of anxiety that would be higher. In addition, a greater perception of fatigue among athletes is associated with a higher incidence of injury.
In dancers, it has been found that obsessive passion seems to be a risk factor in chronic pain, while a harmonious passion would allow you to dance healthy. Obsessive passion is characterized by an uncontrollable need to practice the activity that is the object of the passion. The harmonious passion is rather associated with an activity which is important for the person, but which also gives way to other occupations.
Regarding strength and lumbopelvic stability, several studies have shown that they play a role in the incidence of injury in many athlete populations. A lower limb strength deficit is related to injuries in athletes. Similarly, lumbopelvic stability has been identified as a risk factor for injury. The lumbopelvic stability can be evaluated, among others, by the Functional Movement Screen (FMS) and the Movement Competency Screen (MCS) which take only a few minutes to administer.
How to do it concretely?
In the end, the days when athletes were seen as martyrs are over. After several well-publicized health issues of renowned athletes and more studies on the long-term consequences of injury, we finally realized the importance of a healthy body. In many sports, we are witnessing a revival in which the health of athletes becomes a priority. Will you be part of this wave of change?
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