A Youth Baseball Overuse Injury

Youth Pitching Pic

Is this youth pitcher going to end up as an overuse injury statistic?

 

I got a chance to talk to an old college friend of mine today.  We hadn’t talked in awhile and it was great to catch up.  Part of our talk was about his experiences coaching his son in youth baseball.  This lead us into a discussion about sports specialization, year round baseball, etc.  If you’ve read some of my other blog posts, you know my thoughts on both of these topics.  If you haven’t seen some of my other posts, let’s just say that I’m not a fan of year round specialization.  It leads to burnout and more importantly to unnecessary overuse injuries.

My friend got to tell me how his 13 year old son ended up with a shoulder overuse injury to his growth plate.  Fortunately the injury was discovered very early and they got excellent medical advice.  They were advised to rest his son for a period of time to allow for proper healing.  What did my friend do?  He went above and beyond this advice.  He shut his kid down and has kept his shut down.  His son took the summer off and isn’t playing this fall.  In a couple of months, he’s going to start his son on a gradual progression of throwing.  In the spring, his son will return to baseball.

The amazing thing about this is that the coaches have taken steps to prevent this sort of injury.  Their pitching coach isn’t just someone’s dad who watched a youtube video about pitching.  He pitched at a major D1 University so he has a background as a pitcher.  While this doesn’t automatically make someone a great coach, he probably has more knowledge than many youth coaches.  Their team also hardly throws any curveballs.  They throw almost 100% fastballs and changeups.  How many teams of thirteen year olds can say that?  Probably not too many.

So what are the take home messages from this story?

  • Injuries Happen But – When we are involved with athletes, injury prevention is always the priority.  Any program for sports skill training or sports performance training should take steps to prevent injuries.  This includes quality coaching and preventative exercises for the specific sport.  Unfortunately, injuries still happen in all sports.  If coaching and training could prevent all injuries, there wouldn’t be any injuries in the highest levels of sports (NFL, NBA, MLB, & Olympics).  These athletes have the best sport coaches and strength & conditioning coaches. They also have spent years training their bodies to perfect their sport and prevent injuries.  As we all know, injuries still happen to these athletes.  (Before you start to think that injury prevention doesn’t work, think about the number of injuries that ARE prevented due to proper training.  With no training the injury numbers would probably be through the roof).
  • See the Big Picture – When an athlete does suffer an injury, keep the big picture in mind.  It is NOT next week’s big rivalry game, that upcoming playoff game, or that showcase with all of the college coaches in attendance.  The big picture is the long term health and well being of the athlete and his/her career.  My friend took this view with his son’s injury.  His son is 13.  He should have lots of baseball left to play in his life.  Missing out on a summer and/or fall isn’t going to ruin his chances at college or getting drafted in 5+ years.  It is going to let him heal fully and get him ready to play next season with no lingering issues.  It’s unfortunate that many coaches and parents don’t take the same approach.
  • Evaluate Early & Often – My friend is taking some time to evaluate the dilemma of sports specialization in his son’s life.  Is the injury to his son related to playing too much baseball too soon?  It’s probably hard to say, but he definitely doesn’t want it to create another injury for his son or the other kids that he coaches.  It’s also to get any injuries evaluated early by an Athletic Trainer or Doctor.  While it may just be “sore”, for certain injuries “soreness” can be a sign that a worse injury is about to happen.  As an example, the handful of athletes that I know who have suffered apophyseal fractures at the hip/pelvis had pain in the days leading up to the injury.  Unfortunately, they never said anything to the Athletic Trainers at their high schools.  Within a week, both had fractures and were out of sports for about 2 months.

When dealing with young athletes, it’s important to try to take care of them.  They need to be taught both skills and preventative concepts.  Extra efforts also need to be made to communicate with them.  They don’t always know what is things they need to tell their coaches and parents so we have to make a strong effort to ask.  It’s also important to always remember the big picture – their future.

Mark

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Staying Sharp

Highlighted Section of Book

 

Over the past few weeks, I’ve had some time to try and sharpen my mind.   While I’ve looked at numerous topics, much of my effort has focused on the assessment of movement and correction of errors.  It has really made me evaluate a lot of things that I have learned previously.  While I’m certainly not ready to throw out all of the “old” things that I have done, I am going to try to find ways to integrate some new things with my clients.  This is largely because I have gained a better understanding of how everything in the human body works together.  Even as an ATC, we tend to focus on the location of the pain and don’t always look far enough past that.  I’m really glad that I’ve had a chance to spend some time on this topic.  In the next few weeks, I’ll be getting back to posting more often.  I’ll also be discussing more about what I learned and the resources that I read and watched.

Mark

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Should Golfers Train Like Other Athletes?

olympic-lifts-snatch2 Pic

Do think that he’s using any core muscles?

 

My last post discussed how far strength training for athletes has come since the days where many athletes didn’t lift weights.  In that post, I briefly discussed Frank Stranahan, a successful golfer and weightlifter from the 1940′s – 50′s.  That post got me thinking some so I decided to research info about strength training for golfers.  I came across an article from the Annual Review of Golf Coaching (2007) that includes a piece by Harvey Newton and responses to it from several other individuals.  Having spent time talking to Harvey in the past, I have great respect for his opinion and knowledge and I knew that this article would be a great place to start my research.  In this piece, Newton give some facts about Stranahan.  When you read this, keep in mind that Stranahan won 6 PGA events and 50 amateur tournaments.

Stranahan had experience as a competitive weightlifter, having officially lifted
235 lbs in the Press (no longer a competitive lift), 225 lbs in the Snatch, and 300 lbs
in the Clean-and-Jerk. In powerlifting, minus the Bench Press, his best was 410 lbs

in the Squat and 510 lbs in the Deadlift.

 

Does that sound like most modern golf training?  No.  What many people seem to be doing for golf specific training includes unstable surface training and lots of core training.  These programs tend to avoid heavy lifting and Olympic lifts.  The thinking is that golfers need to focus on developing their core muscles and that heavy lifting will cause them to become “muscle bound” and inflexible.  But is this the correct approach?

To decide, we need to take a look at the benefits of Olympic lifting:

  • Increased explosiveness
  • Increased core strength
  • Improved flexibility and stability

Of course the primary benefit of lifting heavier weights is increased strength.  With all of the benefits of heavy lifting and Olympic lifts, why wouldn’t an athlete want to do them?  Aren’t the goals of training programs for golfers to improve core strength, flexibility, stability, and be able to generate more power for longer drives?  It seems like Olympic lifts can help accomplish all of these.  I can understand if an athlete isn’t ready for this type of training, but why would you want to just automatically exclude them from a program?  Much like the authors of the articles previously I mentioned, I believe that if a golf athlete is physically ready, there is a definite place for heavy lifting and explosive training in golf training.  I know that this goes against the common line of thinking of many in the golf industry, but the goal of coaching is to help an athlete perform at their highest level.  These types of exercises have been shown to be beneficial for golfers and they do have a role in a strength program designed for them.

 

Mark

 

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How Far We’ve Come

Golf Pic

 

The Past

Earlier this week, a sucessful golfer from the 1940′s and 50′s,  Frank Stranahan, passed away.  I had never heard of Mr. Stranahan, but when I read the article about him, I was amazed.  What was amazing to me was that he was also a dedicated bodybuilder & fitness buff.  While bodybuilding wasn’t unheard of in that era, it wasn’t as common as it is now.  For a golfer, it was unheard of.  In golf, just as in baseball, the thinking was that lifting weights was a no-no.  Most felt that this would bulk an athlete up.  This would then lead to a decrease in flexibility and performance in their sport.  Now it is common for athletes in both sports to regularly lift weights during both the off-season and in-season.

I grew up in the 1970′s in Central Florida.  I remember going to the local high school with my Mom and Grandmother so that they could lift weights.  Yes, in the 70′s this was pretty much unheard of.  Women didn’t lift weights.  I was at such a young age that I didn’t realize until years later how rare this was.  However, we had a unique situation in our town.  Since I grew up near the headquarters of the Nautilus fitness company, some of our local coaches were influenced by them.  One of the local high school coaches began to open the school weightroom in the evenings for local people to workout. This was before the days of Planet Fitness, etc.  There wasn’t anywhere else to workout in our town.  The Coach was able to convince my Mom and Grandmother to lift weights to stay in shape.  I basically grew up believing that weightlifting was normal for everyone.  Heck, I remember walking into a bar on a bench and splitting my head open once.  I also remember falling off of a multi-exerciser (that I was goofing around on AFTER having been told to stay off of it lol) and getting the wind knocked out of me.  I saw my whole 6 year old life flashing before my eyes.  I thought I was a goner for sure lol.

Crossfit Woman Pic

You didn’t see things like this years ago

The Future

Obviously weight training wasn’t popular for most people in the past.  Fast forward to today.  Now I have some athletes that I can’t keep out of the weightroom.  I have female athletes that I tell to get in the weightroom more if they want to get better.  We look on TV and see women doing all sorts of things, some that many men can’t handle.  Isn’t it amazing how far things have come?

So the question is, what does the future hold?

 

Mark

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Benefits of Barefoot Jump Training

Shoes

Are those fancy shoes helping your jump training???

There has been a lot written over the last few years about barefoot running and training.  I’ve even written a few posts myself on the topic (And The Feet Have It and 3 Tips For Barefoot Training).  However, what I haven’t seen is anything about barefoot plyometrics or jumping.  Recently there was a study published in the JSCR that addressed this.  The study looked at the performance of male and female athletes while performing a vertical jump, depth drop, and Bosco test.  While I won’t go into all of the statistics, in most instances subjects who were barefoot or wearing minimalist footwear had better jump heights and peak power results than those wearing tennis shoes.  These subjects also displayed equal landing forces to those athletes wearing shoes.

My thoughts from this study?

  • That $100 pair of tennis shoes that you’re training in may be hindering your performance in jumping activities.  These shoes are often designed with lots of padding to decrease landing forces.  While this is beneficial to limit the wear and tear on the body, this same padding may limit our explosiveness when jumping.
  • We know that when you lift heavier weight, you get stronger.  Does the same hold true if you do plyometrics or jump training barefoot?  Only time will tell as more research is completed.  However, it does make sense that training barefoot would have positive long term effects.  The previously mentioned study showed better peak power output and jump height when barefoot or in minimalist footwear.  If you get better results each time, what can happen if you train this way consistently?
  • I’ve previously written about the benefits of barefoot training while running, doing agility drills, warming up, etc.  At the same time, I’ve always felt like certain activities might put the athlete at risk for injuries when they were barefoot.  Any type of jumping activity was on my list of things not to do while barefoot.  I’m now rethinking that belief.  While I will probably end up settling on minimalist footwear as a safe alternative, the benefits of jumping without tennis shoes could outweigh the risks.  Plus we know that there isn’t a real difference in landing forces no matter what you are wearing.

What are your thoughts on jumping without tennis shoes?

 

Mark

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4 Benefits of a Warm Up

Soccer Warm Up Pic

 

A Waste of Time?

There are many athletes that view the warm up as a waste of time.  It’s unfortunate that they view it this way.  They obviously don’t understand the true benefits of a properly designed and performed warm up.

So what are the benefits?

1. Increased Flexibility & Mobility - A good warm up can help to improve an athletes flexibility.  Of course this is important for the workout that is about to be undertaken, but it’s also important as part of long term flexibility development.  If an athlete doesn’t take part in activities that increase flexibility, they will lose it.  This includes stretching post-workout and warming up pre-workout.

2. Improved Performance - Warming up helps to increase muscle temperature, tissue flexibility, heart rate, and breathing rate.  All of these physiological responses to a warm up are meant to get your body ready for exercise.  It’s kind of like taking time to warm up your car on a cold morning.    Can you just hop in your car and drive off?  Yes.  Is it going to work as well when you do that?  No.  The same can be said for your body.

3. Decreased Injury Risk – Every time an athlete trains, practices, or competes, there is a chance of an injury.  A warm up is the first thing that an athlete can do to decrease this risk.  The primary reasons behind this are discussed in #1 and #2 above.

4. Improved Mental Focus – How focused are you without a little effort to forget the stresses that filled your day?  After dealing with customers, co-workers, emails, phone calls, traffic, family, etc, most of us are a little bit rattled and unfocused.  Even though many of our athletes may have different stresses, do you think that it’s much different for them?  Even teens have school, jobs, family issues, and social issues.  A warm up helps them to get focused.  It can help them to forget the issues they faced during the day and help them to remember why they are training.  If the workout is in the AM, the warm up can help to wake them up a little bit.  This can lead to improved performance and attitude.

While it’s important to take your athletes through a warm up, it’s also important to be able to tell them why they need to do one.  That can help them to give better effort during the warm up instead of just going through the motions.

 

Mark

 

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Crossfit – As Seen On TV

There's a right way, and there's a wrong way....

There’s a right way, and there’s a wrong way….

 

The Film Doesn’t Lie

Last night I was flipping around the TV looking to see what was on.  I only had a few minutes so I didn’t want to get too involved in anything. I came across a show about the 2012 Crossfit Games.  I’ve watched a few minutes of these shows in the past but never really paid much attention to them.  During last nights show, one of the events included female athletes doing pull-ups.  When I started to watch the pull-ups, I was left almost speechless.  Their legs were swinging with each rep.  Actually, swinging is an understatement.  Their form was horrible.  It almost reminded me of a gymnast swinging on the parallel bars.  During the same competition, the athletes had to complete a combo lift that included a front squat.  They had judges observing the squats to ensure that each squat was to parallel depth.  What amazed me was the fact that they cared so much about form on one exercise but not the other.  While many people know what Crossfit is, many others don’t.  These national shows are a chance for them to reach a lot of people and show off what they are all about.  Unfortunately, what I saw is more likely to scare people off.  It scares potential clients because it seems unsafe.  It scares Strength Coaches and Personal Trainers because we can just see injuries waiting to happen.  I know that Crossfit has a lot of fans out there.  It also has a lot of detractors.  From what I saw, I can understand why it has so many of the latter.

 

Mark

 

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Supplement Salesmanship

supplement tablet pic

 

A few days ago my brother stopped in to a health food store to buy some supplements.  The person working behind the counter was very helpful.  In typical fashion, the cashier simply started to rattle off lots of information about a couple of products.  He made a few specific comments about creatine that I’ve never heard before. While its possible that the info is accurate, it’s unlikely. The information is probably not backed up by science.  If he had to come up with the source for his information, it would most likely have been “somebody told me”.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone into a health food store had a similar experience.  Once I started to think about it I realized the real issue.  The real issue is that many people are gullible and will take the information they get from a health food cashier as gospel. The issue doesn’t really affect those that work in the fitness industry. The problem affects those who are less informed. This includes a large portion of consumers. I know that this isn’t surprising to most of us. Unfortunately it does affect millions of people everyday. They mistake information from a cashier, an ad in a magazine, or somebody at the gym telling them something as 100% accurate info.  So what can be done?  Just keep trying to educate your clients.  I know, at times it feels like we are Sisyphus rolling a rock up a hill endlessly.  But it’s all that we can do.  Just keep trying to educate your clients.  With as many influences as there are nowadays (parents, coaches, teammates, salespeople, tv, the internet, etc), you might be the only source of reliable info that your athlete hear.

Mark

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You Can Write It On The Board, But You Still Have To Coach It

Plate Push Pic

A few days ago, a friend of mine started an online discussion about coaching.  He made a statement that criticized coaches who just write the strength workout on the board and then don’t actually “coach” it.  He was referring primarily to high school sport coaches.  In an ideal world, this wouldn’t happen.  Unfortunately, it happens much more often than most people realize.
So why does this happen? Usually it’s due to at least one of the following reasons:

  • The sport coach does not have a great strength training background.  He/She knows that their players should lift weights but they don’t understand all of the details about technique and program design.
  • The coach is overwhelmed with the duties of their sport and uses the class to plan for practices and games, make phone calls, etc
  • The ratio of players to coaches makes it difficult to truly instruct the athletes in proper training techniques

While all of these do make things difficult for the coaches, it still shouldn’t excuse them from just writing the workout on the board and trusting the kids to follow it correctly.  So what are the drawbacks for the kids involved?

  • Safety - As we all know weight rooms can be dangerous places. Poor supervision greatly increases the chances of something bad happening.
  • Not following the plan - As most of us know, teenagers all think they have a better way of doing things. In many instances, they will choose to follow their own plan rather than the ones they are given. This can create problems related to recovery among other issues
  • Effort Issues - Obviously some people are not nearly as motivated as others. Without someone watching over them and pushing them a little bit, they will never achieve what they’re fully capable of. Of course the other side of things is that some people are super highly motivated. Sometimes somebody has to hold these people back a little because they don’t understand the big picture of the training plan.
  • Fails To Prepare Them For College - Besides the fact that the athletes are missing out on proper physical conditioning that will benefit them at the college level, they are missing out on even more.  They are not being taught that strength training is important.  They also are learning that minimal effort is acceptable.  I’m sure that their college coaches will just love that.

While there are possible solutions, I won’t go on a rant about the most obvious one – putting a qualified person in charge of the S & C program – or any other ones.  I will say this, it’s a shame that it happens.  In the end, it affects the kids negatively.  Hopefully this is a trend that will change sooner rather than later.

 

Mark

P.S.  Be on the lookout for our mobile site www.sports-upgrade.mobi to debut soon.

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Balanced Training

Scales pic

Is your training program balanced?

Let Me Count The Ways…

How many different ways are there to draw up a training program?  How many different things influence a program?  Some programs are written up based on powerlifting concepts, some are more Olympic lifting based, some are written based on other concepts, and some are combinations of all of the above.  So which one is the right one?  Well that’s easy to answer:  the one that works best for the individual athlete.

Is there one perfect program?  No.  If there was, everyone would be using it.  That’s one of the neat things when training athletes:  based on what the athlete needs, we are all allowed to use our background and beliefs to design a program.  Regardless of what influences you in your program design, you need to keep one key thing in mind when designing the program.  What’s that?  You must keep the program balanced.  What has to be balanced?  Everything does.  What does everything include?  Check the list below to find out:

Balance This:

  • Push Exercises  & Pull Exercises - This should be common sense but some programs are loaded too much in one direction.  Remember, the object of training is to make the athletes better, not create imbalances.
  • Power & Strength Exercises - While there are different types of programs, there does have to be some sort of balance.  I don’t believe that a program can be based entirely on strength  or on power.  While I don’t necessarily think that it has to be a set amount of either type of work, both areas need to be addressed.
  • Prehab/Corrective Exercises & Training Exercises - Is there a place for prehab and corrective exercises?  YES!!  Do I like to see an entire workout based on them?  No.  I believe in trying to find ways to incorporate prehab and corrective exercises into the training plan.  At the same time, as long as it isn’t going to injure the person, I want them to be able to get in some “traditional” training during the same workout.  There is a place for both and they should coexist in the plan.
  • Flexibility & Strength/Power Exercises -  We’ve all seen the stereotypical “muscle bound” guy walking down the beach.  They’re strong as an ox.  Unfortunately, they are so inflexible that they can’t even move.  This is the last thing that we want in our athletes.  It is just setting them up for an injury.  Therefore, we need to make sure that there is an adequate amount of flexibility work included in our programs.  By in our programs, I don’t mean as a “homework” assignment for the athlete.  As we all know, in reality, they probably won’t do it (or will do it halfway).  Therefore, it needs to be included in the daily plan.
  • Speed/Agility/Conditioning Work - Do athletes need to work on speed?  Yes.  Agility?  Yes.  Conditioning?  Yes.  No matter what level they are, there needs to be some work in each of these areas.  Of course, it doesn’t have to be an equal split between the three.  The program should be based on the individual athletes needs.  But no matter how much they need conditioning work, speed and agility can still be integrated in to the program.  No matter how much they need to get faster and more agile, they cannot forget about conditioning.

Where does this leave us when we plan programs for out clients?  It generally leaves us with a multitude of things that we can choose to work on.  Unfortunately, none of us have the time needed to do all of those things. That is what creates the balancing act when planning a program.  We have to find time and ways to incorporate strength, power, speed, agility, conditioning, and flexibility exercises into our programs.  We also have to create a program that is based on individual needs, strengths, and weaknesses.  That is the challenge that we are all faced with.  Of course, putting together a good program and coaching the athlete through it makes all of the challenges worthwhile when you see a great end result.  That is the reward for the challenge.

 

Mark

 

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