Have you ever seen an athlete that plays like they’re out of control? You know the ones. They spend lots of time on the ground or floor, when they run their arms flail around, and every time they try to stop and change direction body parts go everywhere. It’s pretty much a trainwreck waiting to happen. Is it really any surprise we have so many knee injuries now? Or ankle injuries? Or concussions? What do you expect to happen when an athlete has no control over their body? And you know what the major problem is? They were never taught how to run, jump, stop, and change direction properly. To me, that’s a problem. Kids are being set up to fail. I’m not just talking about performing poorly in their sport. I’m talking about injuries. In this country, we seem to be in too much of a hurry to get young kids playing their sport (and playing game after game after game). We don’t seem to worry about how they perform basic athletic skills.
So what sort of problems can be caused by a lack of control? Here are a few:
- Poor Landings - Poor landing mechanics can lead to numerous lower body issues including ankle and knee problems. Of course, the most widely known of these is the dreaded ACL tear.
- Inability to Decelerate/Stop - Once an athlete starts to move, they have to be able to stop themselves. The body is made up of multiple joints and muscles with various forces acting on them. If an athlete cannot stop all of these forces in an effective manner, then they will find ineffective (and usually unsafe) methods to stop. That means that the joints, muscles, tendons, and ligaments all must take on extra forces that they aren’t always capable of handling safely.
- Poor Body Positions - Poor body positions not only lead to poor performance, they also lead to athletes getting hurt. If an athlete’s body is in a bad position, it won’t stop them from trying to execute the same moves that other athletes use. Think about an basketball player who is standing too tall in his defensive stance. When the player that he is defending takes off running, he is naturally going to chase after him. Of course, by being in a bad position to start with, the athlete cannot move efficiently. Therefore he’s going to place more stress on his joints and increase his chance of injury.
- Balance & Coordination Problems- Let’s not forget about balance and coordination issues that are created by being out of control. Athletes who lose their balance or make uncoordinated movements have a greater risk of getting hurt.
One of the big concepts in recent years has been screening athletes for physical problems. As Strenth & Conditioning professionals, we all screen people for basic athletic skills. We try to eliminate running, jumping, landing, stopping, etc as potential injury situations. Unfortunately, there are still too many athletes that are “out of control”. If we could get these athletes in control, it might do wonders for decreasing the injury rates among young athletes.
Here are 2 more posts related to prevention of ACL injuries: