Experts offer tips for spring training, injury prevention

March 20 2007

With the spring sporting season upon us, athletes of all kinds — from the student athlete to the active adult — are back in training. To optimize your training regimen and keep you from getting sidelined by injury, an exercise physiologist at Indiana State University recommends easing back into your chosen sport.

“Progression is the key,” said Jeff Edwards, professor and department chair of physical education and department chair of athletic training at ISU, “and this is a fancy word that means you should start easy, and work your way up toward your ideal fitness level for your sport.”

If you have stayed active over the winter months and are generally fit, this is a good foundation, Edwards says, but it’s not a green light to jump back into your sport at full steam.

“If someone who has been staying in shape over the winter with a walking or resistance training program, suddenly goes out and starts to do a lot of cycling, and they happen to live in hilly area, it wouldn’t be unusual for that person to develop knee pain,” Edwards said.

The reason is because there are two types of fitness, he says, “general overall” and “sport-specific.”

“The problem with this cyclist is they were not ready for that high level of specific activity,” Edwards said. “They just jumped on the bike and started peddling uphill, instead of easing back into the sport.”

So what does this mean in practical terms? Sitting down and writing out a training-needs analysis, Edwards says.

“Start your progressive spring training program by planning how you will ramp yourself up into the season,” he said. “For most people, progression is something they intuitively do, but there are some specific things to plan for in order to optimize your workout.”

Edwards says to consider specificity, intensity, frequency and duration.

• Specificity — You can generally be in shape, but still get into trouble if you spend a lot of time doing one specific thing, he says. “For example, if a softball player goes out and starts throwing the softball time and time again, that is a prescription for disaster, and can cause an overuse injury,” he said. “There are very few things this athlete could have done over winter that could help train for this sport. The only thing that will really prepare you most for throwing is throwing, but again, you have to ramp up to that sport-specific action in progression.”

• Intensity — Pace the intensity of your workout, based on the level that your body is at, Edwards says. “Using the same softball scenario, the athlete should not go out for the first time and throw the ball as hard as possible. This also can lead to an overuse injury such as an inflamed rotator cuff,” he said. “Intensity is a relative term. What is intense for one person might be an easy pace for someone else. Don’t judge what your own pace should be by what someone else is doing.”

• Frequency — Determine how many times per week you should train for your sport, allowing for a gradual increase, as well as appropriate rest in between training sessions, he says. “You can’t just train one day a week and expect to see progress,” he said. “You can maintain on one day a week, but you won’t get up to speed on that. Find your happy medium between active training and rest.”

• Duration — The final consideration in your plan should be duration, or how long each workout should be, Edwards says. “When looking at duration, you have to keep intensity in mind as well,” he said. “If you want to hit the softball or pitch it as hard as you can, then the duration should be shorter than if you were going to go through those specific motions at an easier pace.”

And of course, don’t forget the basics. “Make sure that you warm up at the start and cool down at the end of your activity,” he says.

If you have trouble planning out your training regimen, Edwards says not to be afraid to ask for help.

“There is a lot of information out there about each specific sport,” he said. “Check out some of the credible online sources; and get advice from experts, exercise physiologists or adult fitness instructors.”

DEALING WITH INJURIES

If you create a spring training plan based on the above principles, it is much less likely that an injury will sideline you from your sport. To help deal with sport-related injuries, here are a few tips from Paul Plummer, executive director of athletic training services for Indiana State University, and president of the Indiana Athletic Trainers Association; and Eric Laudano, ISU assistant athletic trainer.

• Injury Prevention — Preventing an injury from happening is one of the most important aspects of being active and participating in sports. To decrease injury occurrence, it is important to warm up properly with stretches. Proper stretching includes three sets of a static hold stretch for at least 30 seconds, for each muscle group. Holding the stretch and not bouncing is key to a good stretch, without risking a strain. The most commonly strained muscles are hamstrings, quads and calves.

• Injury Treatment — If an injury does occur, the general rule of thumb is the R.I.C.E. principle: Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation. It is important to get off of or rest the injured limb or site. Ice the injury, for approximately 15 to 20 minutes, depending on the area and body part. This will help decrease swelling and pain. Compress the area with an ace wrap and elevate the injury above the heart to reduce swelling. Always consult a physician if an injury does occur.

• Injury Rehabilitation— After an injury occurs, there may be a decrease in muscle size and strength, due to resting and not using that particular joint or muscle group. It is important to re-educate the muscle group and joint, and rehabilitate it by starting with simple range-of-motion and strengthening exercises. Rehabilitation of an injured joint is crucial in order to return to activity. Be sure that the injured site has full range-of-motion, compared to uninjured areas; and be sure the muscle strength is equal. Returning to activity without full restoration may lead to more serious injury to the same area, or a compensation injury to another part of the body.

• Injury Return — Once rehabilitation has taken place and proper range of motion and strength have been established, it may be necessary to utilize either a brace or some type of mechanism to help stabilize the joint when first returning to play. A proper brace or wrap can be provided by your physician.

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EXPERT CONTACTS:
Jeff Edwards, professor and department chair of physical education and department chair of athletic training at Indiana State University, (812) 237-4048 or j-edwards@indstate.edu
Paul Plummer, executive director of athletic training services for Indiana State University and president of the Indiana Athletic Trainers Association, (812) 237-4067 or pplummer1@isugw.indstate.edu

MEDIA RELATIONS CONTACT:
Katie Spanuello, media relations assistant director, Indiana State University, (812) 237-3790 or kspanuello@isugw.indstate.edu

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Story Highlights

Jeff Edwards, professor and department chair of physical education and department chair of athletic training at Indiana State University; and Paul Plummer, executive director of athletic training services for ISU and president of the Indiana Athletic Trainers Association, offer tips for easing back into your chosen sport and dealing with injuries.

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