How to prepare for your best sporting season yet
March brings the commencement of a variety of sporting codes, such as NRL, rugby union, AFL, netball and soccer. And just as the season commences, so too should a team commence their prehab programs – programs that are designed to prevent injury and prepare the body for the demands of their sport. No matter what your sport is, one of the biggest performance issues a team can have is the management of injuries, and injury occurrence becomes more prevalent as we age and progress to higher sporting levels. So just as the focus should be on how to win this season, it is just as important to have a focus on maintaining optimal health.
Many teams are now incorporating and understanding the importance of pre-season training, to help condition and prepare their players for the season. Pre-season programs are designed to simulate the conditions of the sport, and to progressively challenge the players to a point that exceeds the demands of a normal game. This helps to elevate peak performance during games as the athlete is trained to maintain a high level of output. In the same way, injury management is progressively structured, so as to strengthen the body to avoid injury. Teams who are able to predict the risk factors that lead to injury, and who are able address those risk factors, have a competitive advantage over other teams.
Who should prehab?
Ideally, anyone who is interested in preventing an injury from occurring should be engaged in a prehab program, and the higher the performance level of an athlete, the greater the importance is of preventing injury. Similarly, increasing age and a pre-existing history of injury increases the importance of prehab. The greatest risk factor for injury is a previous episode of one, which many players are susceptible to due to the demands of their sport.
How does sport cause injury?
Sports are repetitive in nature, creating imbalances and a negative stress on the body. Muscle tension, muscular weakness and muscle imbalances are all examples of imbalances, and are reinforced with every game or training session. This is often the underlying cause of many issues.
How is prehab performed?
The starting point is to a physical assessment that looks at strength, balance and the quality and range of movement. Equal strength between left and right parts of the body, as well front and back, is more important than absolute strength.
Prehab programs are individually prescribed and are informed by the assessment. They usually include a variety of training techniques, manual therapies, stretching, mobility drills, strength and balance work. The objective is to correct poor movement, imbalances in the body and to improve the stress resilience of tissues to reduce the risk of injury.
When is the best time to prehab?
The start of the sporting season is often the best time to commence, as it allows us to program the exercises as part of preseason, and helps us build a solid foundation before the regular season begins. By discovering underlying issues before training (and therefore repetitive loading) takes place, we are able to intervene before an injury occurs.
How long does prehab take?
Prehab may take from a few weeks up to a few months, and may sometimes continue through the regular season to help remove stress on the body, to assist with recovery and to maintain balance within the body.
The common quote; “an inch of prevention is worth a mile in treatment”, is very true when looking at sporting injuries. Injuries such as hamstring injuries, knee pain, shoulder injuries can be prevented in most cases. Finding a practitioner, such as a chiropractor, physiotherapist or personal trainer, that assess and recommended an appropriate program, is worth the investment to remain injury free, rather than to try and fix a body part after it is broken.