This article by the U.S. National Library of Medicine is a classic example of standard injury prevention measures. The trouble is, although these measures have been recommended for decades, they simply don’t go far enough to actually prevent the majority of aches, pains and strains that have become increasingly prevalent during the same time frame.
What Causes Exercise Injury?
According to the article, there are seven causes of injury:
- Exercising before your body has warmed up
- Repeating the same motion over and over again
- Not having proper form for your exercise
- Not resting in between workouts
- Pushing your body too hard or too quickly
- Doing an exercise that is too strenuous for your level of fitness
- Not using proper equipment
While it might appear that these cause injuries, in reality, a simple lack of joint movement is the REAL cause of the majority of exercise injuries.
Let’s use each of these causes to demonstrate…
Exercising before your body has warmed up
Warming up has been a staple of exercising for at least 3 decades but when it comes to preventing injury, raising body temperature and heart rate simply isn’t enough.
ALL movement creates heat, which means that if I open and close my hands for long enough and vigorously enough, my feet would get warm, even when I’m sitting down.
Is this preparing my body enough for running? No.
But neither is jogging.
Because getting heat to the joints required for exercise is NOT the same as helping them to move better. When we help them to move more freely, without restriction, we increase their ability to absorb shock and we increase their ability to withstand stress, which makes them more capable of coping with the demands of our exercise.
I’ve lost count of the number of times patients have come to me with pains that started towards the end of a “warm up”.
If the warm up was doing more to prepare the body for exercise than just raising body temperature and heart rate, this wouldn’t happen.
This one, I totally agree with, but it’s not because of the movement – that could be anything from hitting a forehand in tennis, to doing a downward dog in Yoga.
When we prioritise the movement in one direction over others. our bodies adapt. This means some muscles shorten and some muscles lengthen, and some get excessively twisted. All this makes our bones shift position inside the joint.
When we our bones are sat in the right position, they often have less room to move inside the joint, and since many of them aren’t a symmetrical shape, this often means that nerves get squashed (causing increased muscle tightness, referred pain, numbness, burning sensations, sharp stabbing pains and more).
When we encourage movement in LOTS of different directions, we reduce the risk of this happening and therefore reduce the risk of injury.
This is something that coaches LOVE to harp on about. They think that if they can make someone’s movement LOOK like it’s being efficient, it will be. But in many cases, by insisting someone moves in a particular way, we’re actually asking them to work HARDER – which increases their risk of injury.
The TRUTH is that if a person has “poor form”, their joint movement is restricted, which makes it difficult for them to achieve the positions we want.
Instead of insisting on “correct” form, as coaches we need to find ways of improving joint movement to enable our participants’ bodies to achieve the positions we’re looking for.
Not Resting Between Workouts
Is this a joke? How many people do you know that workout 24/7?
Seriously though, rest isn’t really the problem here, it’s recovery.
If your participants aren’t recovering quickly from exercise, it’s likely because they don’t have good joint movement.
Poor joint movement increases the strain on muscle tissue which, over time, makes it stiff and dry – this reduces the amount of blood flow and nutrients that can reach our joints and muscles.
Since it’s blood that carries IN the nutrients that help our bodies recover and REMOVES the excess of damaging ones that are caused by exercise, restricted blood flow is a HUGE issue when it comes to injuries.
But it’s one that improving joint movement can significantly improve and therefore reduce the risk of injury.
Pushing Too Hard Too Fast/Being Too Strenuous
Again, most people think that it’s the activity itself or the change in intensity that caused the injury but it isn’t, it’s the body’s inability to handle that amount of stress – which once again comes back to joint movement.
A joint that doesn’t move well has a limited capacity to handle physical stress, and while those levels of stress are low, it’s not as noticeable, but when the load or speed or intensity changes suddenly, we discover where our real limits of stress handling are.
When our joints move freely, they are much more capable of handling large amounts of stress, no matter how sudden the change.
This is a tricky one.
Obviously, some equipment, like a helmet or protective equipment, will help prevent injury from falls or collision, but when it comes to a racquet that’s too heavy or running shoes without the proper support – this again comes down to lack of joint movement.
When we increase the ability of our joints to move freely we don’t need the shoes to have support in them because our bodies are doing that job for us, and the strain from holding a heavy racquet comes from the restricted joint movement in our fingers, wrists, hands, elbows and even shoulders.
So you see, when it comes right down to it, restricted joint movement is at the HEART of all causes of exercise injury… the question is, what are YOU going to do about it?
If you’re tired of seeing your participants struggle with the same old injury problems year after year, or watching a young talent have their potential ripped away because of injury breaks your heart, then I’d like to invite you to come and join our Injury Hackers community over on Facebook where you’ll discover so many ways you can help, you won’t know what hit you!