Factors Related to Injury That We Can’t Control & How to Manage That
Wednesday, 10 / 24 / 18
Overall, there are about nine major factors that are related to injury, or could determent performance:
Everything you do in your everyday life can either help you with your performance, or the opposite, it could decrease performance and even result in injuries. There are things that we do in our everyday that you can control, and some that you can’t.
In today’s blog I am going to discuss the factors in which we can’t control, which include travel/work, stress, past injuries and you could even put sleep in there. With these factors I will include ways that you can manage these to the best of your ability to try to prevent any detrimental effects.
This is a big one that we face in today’s culture of sitting. It’s true that “sitting is the new smoking”. The longer your commute to work is, and the longer amount of time you must sit at your job, the tighter and more imbalanced you will become.
Let’s say you drive to work in the morning, you are sitting in a hip flexed position with one foot/ankle complex doing all the work. Chances are, you are in a slouching posture and your head is positioned forward in front of your shoulders.
When this happens, your hip flexors become shortened under a compressive state. Not only are you in a compressive state in the hip flexors, but it directly affects the piriformis (in the glutes) which then compresses on the sciatic nerve… No wonder why there is so many complaints of back pain! Driving with one leg you will have a lot of dorsiflexion (toe towards the shin) and plantarflexion (toe pointed), as well as some hip external/internal rotation (one more than the other depending how soft your seat is and how much your hips sink into it… which is not a good thing by the way). This will travel up the kinetic chain, tight calves, tight shins, tight hamstrings, weak glutes, especially on one side more than the other because of your driving foot.
Now, your posture. I myself always catch myself hunching over with a forward head tilt the longer my drive is. When we slouch over like that, we are shortening the hip flexors even more, we are shutting off our diaphragm (sits under the diaphragm that helps controls our breathing), tightening our pectorals muscles in our chest, weakens the muscles around our shoulder blades, and our head tilt is pulling our center of gravity forward which makes us imbalanced and puts a lot of force onto our quads when we walk/run/and even lift.
This is the same exact circumstance when you work in an environment where you do a lot of sitting, and like driving with one foot… when you cross your legs when you work. You will see that imbalance happen again.
All of this will carry over into your physical activity of choice (lift, class, run, play sports, etc.). How much we sit, drive, walk and stand (or even sleep) poorly for 23 hours of the day, that 1 hour of lifting or taking a class in a dysfunctional state will leave you at large risk of injury.
What can you do?
Your best bet is taking trigger point/mobility breaks! Stretch will help some, but you really need to dig into that fascia and get more oxygen and blood flow into those areas of constant tightness.
Areas to focus on trigger pointing: the psoas (deep hip flexor muscle), t-spine, piriformis, pecs, calves
Areas to focus on mobility: T-Spine Extensions, Chest Opener, Hip Extension
Set reminders on the road to check your posture. After every song on the radio, do a self-check on your posture and to make sure your neck isn’t jolted forward, that you are nice and aligned! If you’re at work set your timer on your phone or your watch!
Stress is something we all know and hear… we all know it’s not good for us and that we should try to manage it as much as possible. Sometimes, though, that is out of our control. Life happens. Life is not created to be easy. It is important to know though, that training under stress is detrimental to your overall performance and puts you at a high-risk state for injury. Let’s say from the moment you woke up this morning, and every single moment after another was just going wrong. You’re running late for class/practice and you’re now stuck in traffic… You work yourself into a stressed state.
What happens in our body is there's a little control center in our brains, called the hypothalamus, that sends our stress hormones to cope with the situation at hand. Your heart rate increases, your breathing rate increases, and you become tense. This was designed in our bodies to “fight or flight”, preparing our bodies to act quickly. Now, imagine your body doing this day, after day, after day.
Now your body is in a chronic stress state and you are trying to perform at your physical best, putting physical stress on our bodies. Now you are in a physiological stressed state, on top of being under physical stress. Those stress hormones that are released from the hypothalamus are telling the adrenal glands to release cortisol and adrenaline to increase our heart beat and rush blood to our muscles, heart and other organs…. Sounds a lot like what happens when we exercise. Imagine your body going through these processes, and now you are putting more on top of that. At some point, you’re going to run out of matches to burn and you will eventually burn yourself out mentally and physically. But you tell yourself to just push through it.
find “your thing” that will put you in a rest and digest state. Maybe it’s going for a quiet walk, listening to music, going to yoga, focusing on your breath. ANYTHING that can set you away from the “right now”.
Eventually you will see this downward trend of results and performance. Everything you increase as a stimulus in training you hope it will go up in trend (if this was a line graph). But you go into your workout in a stressed state, that trend will slightly increase. Once that stressor is applied again that line graph will shoot right back down, then slightly increase again, then shoot back down, trending downward through time. Your body is trying so hard to fight itself, that these stress hormones are constricting blood vessels making your heart and your muscles work too hard for too long. This is where we see injuries, such as muscles strains, and muscle pulls, as well as those nagging aches and pains that just seem to never go away no matter what you do. Also, if you’re always sick chances are you over stressed. Being stressed also weakens our immune system, making it hard to fight infections.
How do we control our stress?
You need to find “your thing” that will put you in a rest and digest state. Maybe it’s going for a quiet walk, listening to music, going to yoga, focusing on your breathing. ANYTHING that can set you away from the “right now”.
The athletes that I work with, before big practices or games right around finals, instead of lifting we would go through rebalancing the body and then ending with a meditation session for just 10-15 minutes. What we do is a body scan, starting from the feet and focus on that specific body part, putting our energy into relaxing that body part and releasing any tightness. We then work up the body, piece by piece. From there, when they are completely relaxed, we do some visualization of game situations, step by step. It’s rare for these college kids to get a solid 15 minutes of complete silence and to focus on their bodies and themselves rather than everything else around them in their lives. Afterwards they feel amazing. They gave their bodies that rest and digest state to reset the system.
Injuries happen. You could be doing all the right things, and just one little movement or one bad play, or even just accidentally falling down the stairs, can create a huge setback. These things happen and it’s just out of our control. The best thing you could do for yourself, is not let it stop you from training. You can train AROUND injuries instead of sitting on the side, all slouched over like sack of potatoes until you can play or compete again. Don’t let it be an excuse. If you become a couch potato from an injury, you will lose everything you just worked hard for in about a week-week and a half. You’ll be weak and imbalanced.
The greatest mistake that I see is athletes or clients that are injured for a while and they just sit around waiting for it to heal. Then once the injury is healed, they just jump right back in and try to compete at the same level they were at before the injury. HUGE RISK OF INJURY! That’s why it’s SO common for athletes who tore an ACL, end up tearing the other one.
And now say you are in a brace, that brace will mentally make you wearier of your movements. Sometimes being too cautious isn’t good either. The combination of weakness and not working through full ranges of motion you once were able to (because the brace is restricting you from movement and proper muscle activation) will put you at a greater risk for injury as well.
What to do?
-Train around the injuries or limitations, make sure you’re doing SOMETHING to make sure you’re maintaining strength.
-Make sure you’re completing all the mobility and strengthening exercises that your athletic trainer or physical therapist gave you. You are always at risk for reinjuring yourself.
-Try to train without the brace every now and then. I know it’s a comfort thing for most people, but sometimes braces are there just as an aid as it doesn’t really solve the problem that’s going on. If you reactivate muscles that weren’t properly working before and strengthen around the joint (let’s say the knee for example) then you might be able to come back stronger without the brace, rather than relying on the brace to do everything for you.
-Don’t let it define you. Coming back from injuries can be more mental than anything! Don’t let that injury control your mind because your mind is what creates movement!
Last, but certainly not least, sleep. Coming back to stress, if you are not getting enough sleep, you body releases that stress hormone, cortisol. Sleep deprivation has been linked to glycogen and carbohydrate production, which is our energy source for physical activity. The result of this is fatigue, low energy, and poor focus. Not even just about performance, but sleep is where the body is at rest and it can finally repair and rebuild itself. Any damage or stress to the body, this is where the body is trying to help you return to your homeostatic state. Why do you think when we get the flu our bodies literally just want to sleep? It’s your bodies way of telling you that you NEED rest and so it can HELP you! Let your body do its job people! GO TO SLEEP!
Ways to help this if you don’t sleep well?
Make sure to turn off all electronics at least an hour before you go to bed
Be in a very dark room when you sleep
Exercise will help your body sleep better
Eating nutritious foods
Managing your stress
These are all the risk factors that are pretty much out of your control. They will negatively impact your performance and increase your risk of injury. Doing your best to at least MANAGE these risk factors will help create a better, healthier, and a more bad-ass version of yourself. All these factors tie into one another.
Stay tuned to my next blog where I will go into the other factors (that you can control) that will affect your performance!