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.
The 2012 Little League World Series ended yesterday, with Japan winning impressively. Of course, with youth baseball always comes some debate about arm injuries. Should young pitchers throw curveballs? Should the pitch be banned in Little League? Do pitchers throw too much? Are neither of these factors to blame when a pitcher gets hurt? Are both of them to blame? It’s always interesting hearing the different sides of this issue. Let’s look at a few facts:
Breaking Pitches – Many people place the blame for arm injuries on kids throwing curveballs. Is this really a factor? There is evidence that certain pitches (especially sliders) can place more stress on the elbow joint. There are some who believe that the curveball argument is valid, and some that don’t. In my opinion, while the curveball may not be fully to blame, it certainly isn’t helping things.
Round and Round – Is year round baseball to blame? It certainly seems to be a factor. In my opinion, a major factor. Kids need a chance for their arms to rest and recover. They can’t do that when they play baseball (or softball) 10+ months a year.
Keeping Count – Do pitch counts help? Most youth baseball leagues have some form of limit on how much a player can pitch in game and in a week. These are steps in the right direction. They also need to be in place since some youth coaches probably are less concerned about the long-term health of their players than they should be. However, a short term limit on pitches may not solve all of the problems. One study of MLB pitchers recently showed that the cumulative effect of high pitch counts affects the pitcher long term more than one outing may affect them in the short term. This ties in with the whole year round argument.
Well Hello Tommy John – The number of “Tommy John” surgeries to repair elbow ligaments has risen dramatically in recent years. This surgery used to rarely be done for young athletes. Not surprisingly, it is now done much more often.
What To Do?
To save us all some time, I’m going to list three things that we can do to stop this arm abuse epidemic:
Stop having kids play baseball/softball year round
Get kids on a strength and conditioning program that will develop their overall athleticism
Stop teaching young pitchers the curveball
Will this stop all arm and shoulder problems in young pitchers? Probably not, but it should definitely help reduce them.
Just like many of you, I’ve spent part of the last week watching the Olympics. There has been a big deal made about Ryan Lochte’s training and some of the unusual things that he does to prepare. These include tire flips, keg tosses, and using ropes. Some other S & C coaches have given their thoughts on his workouts. Some of these were positive and some not so much. Some of us might not feel comfortable putting an athlete through strongman type activities. Ryan’s S & C coach, Matt Delancey, does. I’ve heard Matt speak on a few occasions at clinics, including one lecture on the use of strongman exercises with athletes. I also had an opportunity to watch him at work. Matt is a former strongman competitor so yes, sometimes strongman exercises make it into the routines he uses with his athletes. One thing that you may not know is how much Matt emphasizes correct form. He is much less worried with how much weight someone can lift than he is with developing and maintaining proper form. His number one rule for strongman exercises is that as soon as the athletes form breaks down, you stop the exercise. I believe that having a full understanding of an exercise how to perform it correctly is crucial to being a good S & C Coach. While many of us might not feel comfortable including strongman exercises, often that is due to our background and a lack of knowledge about the exercises. While some might not agree with using these exercises with a swimmer, his coach is very comfortable with it. He is also very competent to teach the exercises and keep them safe. Whether we agree with the program that Ryan does or have some issues with it, we need to keep one thing in mind: every coach is different. Every coach has different backgrounds and experiences, different styles, and different levels of comfort with certain exercises or methods. That’s one of the neat things about strength and conditioning. While there is a lot of science that we rely on, there is also room for each of us to be unique and create our own program. Just because a program is different than one we might design, that doesn’t mean that it’s bad.
Here’s a sample of Ryan’s Training.
Strongman Exercises For Everyone?
One post I read a few days ago stated that Lochte’s training would have a negative effect on many clients. The author felt that many of their clients would come in begging to include tire flips, etc in their training. He’s probably right. I’m sure that due to the publicity, many athletes and coaches will suddenly want to include these in their training. Guess what? In general, that’s probably not a good idea. Remember, training programs should be individualized based on many factors including what the athlete is capable of. There also needs to be consideration given to what the coach can safely teach the athlete. This is where my greatest fear is. I hope that coaches stick with what is right and with what they can safely teach. Unfortunately, some won’t and they will end up needlessly injuring some athletes.
The British Medical Journal just published an interesting study about sports performance products. They looked at a variety of products that are marketed in the sports performance world. No matter if the product was a supplement, a shoe, a sports drink, or any other item, the scientists checked to see what claims the product made. They then tried to find research that validated the claims. Guess what? In many cases there wasn’t any published research that supported the product claims. Even if research did exist, many times it wasn’t enough to scientifically conclude that the advertised benefits were in fact true. Is this surprising? Probably not. While this study was conducted in Britain, I would guess that similar results would be found in the United States. Several notable American companies (Nike & Powerade) were included in the study because they market and sell in both countries.
In the U.S., the FDA thoroughly evaluates any new drug before it is approved for use. I’m sure that Britain has a similar process in place. Unfortunately, the FDA doesn’t try to regulate supplements. They only step in if there are numerous complaints and/or health risks (who remembers ephedra????).
Here are a few surprising facts from the study:
Over 50% of all product websites that made product claims did not provide any references for studies that would support these claims
When contacted, some companies were not willing to share their research (In reality, this may not be that surprising)
Once company believed that simply providing a video of their product being used was “sufficient”
So, what is the reality? Just like with many other products, companies tend to make impressive claims about the benefits of using their products. Unfortunately, these claims often aren’t supported by solid research. Regardless, due to marketing to a gullible public, many people don’t question the claims and just buy the products without further investigation. This tends to work out great for the companies who keep putting money in the bank. So what should consumers do? Remember the old P.T. Barnum quote “there’s a sucker born every minute”. Don’t be a sucker!!! Don’t believe everything that some company tells you about it’s newest diet pill, muscle growth powder, sports drink, shoe, shirt, or anything else. Be smart and do some research. While it is great to be able to just hop on the internet and Google something to get info about it, realize that not everything you read on the internet is true either. Make sure to get info from good sources. If you’re not sure where to start, Pubmed publishes abstracts from numerous scientific journals related to health, fitness, exercise, and medicine. Start there and see what you find.
The May issue of the Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research has an excellent article called “The Junction Boys Syndrome”. The syndrome title is based on the book and movie called “The Junction Boys”. These both tell the story of the year that “Bear” Bryant took over as head coach at Texas A&M. He took his players off-campus for a brutal pre-season camp. Numerous players were injured and/or quit the team during the camp.
The article by Scott Anderson discusses the fact that modern football “training regimens are too often built on tradition versus based on science and place players at-risk”. He then gives us information and facts about the 21 nontraumatic deaths in NCAA FBS football since 2000. Sixteen of these deaths occurred during strength and conditioning activities.
Is Anderson right? Yes, Are many of these deaths caused by the “tradition” of intense work making tougher and better football players? Unfortunately, yes. Why is this? There are numerous resources available to help people design safe and effective training programs. There are also qualified Strength & Conditioning coaches to design and implement the programs. We even have Certified Athletic Trainers who can help monitor athletes for signs of medical problems during workouts and then care for them if necessary. So why do we still have deaths? I think that there are three main reasons:
Influence of the Football Coaches – The S & C world is full of stories of sport coaches dictating how they want the strength and conditioning program run. While some of this has to do with trust and respect, if the S & C Coach is qualified and competent, let them do their job. If they aren’t qualified and competent, then hire someone who is.
The “I’ll Make You Puke Mentality” – While I understand the get tough mentality, I think that if a S & C Coach uses puking as the goal for the workouts that he designs, it’s sad. With all of the research and knowledge at our disposal, there should be a better goal that they can come up with. Vern Gambetta has discussed his thoughts on work and makes a good point “…puking at the end of a workout is not the measure of a good training.”
Tradition – It is true that in some instances, football training is still in the dark ages. Top this with the fact that there are still numerous veteran coaches who believe in doing things traditionally, and it leads to problems. New research is published all of the time to help show what works and what doesn’t. S & C Coaches should constantly be trying to learn and use this knowledge to make their programs better. As for the football coaches, see #1 above.
Should we still have nontraumatic deaths during football training? No. The last thing that any of us want is for one of our athletes to die due to the training program that we have designed and overseen. Scott Anderson ends his article by saying that it is time for these deaths to stop. I don’t see how anyone could disagree.
P.S. If you want to know how we believe that training should be, click here to find out Sports Upgrade
Here’s a video post about heat illness. Since several high school athletes have died already this year due to the heat, I thought that it would be a good time to address it. The video discusses prevention, signs & symptoms, and treatment.
I’ve got to confess that I was planning this post last night. At that time, I wasn’t aware of a recent Webmd article about sports training for female teens. Fortunately, I saw a link for it on Twitter this AM. The article is a great lead in to my post. If you haven’t read it, I encourage you to do so.
I think that the article does a great job of touching on several points. First and foremost, it addresses several things that females need to be doing to prepare and it explains why. Anyone who works with athletes should be aware of the fact that female ACL injuries occur more often than they do to males. They should also know how to train an athlete to try to prevent their occurance. The article also emphasizes having a well designed plan to follow when training. The article closes by discussing the imporantance of proper nutrition. This is a subject that cannot be overemphasized when dealing with athletes at any level.
By now you’re probably wondering what my original post was going to be about and how this article played into it. My original idea was to write about the training of athletes needing to be led by someone who is qualified to do it. Too many times I’ve seen a sport coach decide to design a strength/speed/agility program for their athletes. There are some sport coaches who can accomplish this and design a safe and effective program. Unfortunately, there are a large percentage who cannot do this. Just because someone coaches a sport does not mean that they have a full understanding of :
preventative (“prehab”) exercises
I have worked with some great coaches in my career (and a few not so great, but we won’t go into that….). There is no doubt that some of those coaches understood their sport inside and out. My favorite sport to watch is football. I’ve watched it, played it, and worked around it. While I might know some about it, I have worked with coaches who knew 100+ times more than I do. They were the “experts” in their sports. I could have never coached their sport as well as they did. On the other side of that, I tried to make it so that they couldn’t do my job as well as I did.
When you consider the training and development of your son/daughter or your athletes, please keep all of this in mind. There are qualified people who can run a strength/speed/agility program. Of course, there are also some who claim that they can. Believe it or not, designing and running a fitness program is much different than training athletes to maximize their potential. Find someone who has experience dealing with athletes, someone who has a degree in exercise science or a related field, and someone who has credentials from a credible organization. Not only will these people understand how to train an athlete to get better, they will understand the biomechanical and physiological aspects of the sport so that they can design and implement a top notch program.
P.S. If you want to see what one training program for females looks like, check out the video of the Auburn Softball Team below.