Track Coach

TC224 Editorial Column

From the Editor – RUSS EBBETS

Pre-hab and Injury Prevention

It seems for many coaches sport-related injuries are just something that happens, an inevitable consequence of athletic participation, akin to living on earth and getting hit with a piece of space junk. But are sports injuries really inevitable? Who designs the practice and dictates volume and intensity? Who teaches correct technique and movement patterns? It’s not somebody sitting up in the stands. It’s the coach, of course.

Injuries happen. I get that, but if one has control of the elements, the moving parts before the breakdown occurs, shouldn’t one take some of the responsibility for the consequences? I know, I know—another job for the track coach to do. Just throw it on the pile of sport psychologist, career development specialist, bus manager and bruised ego unbruiser. And that list doesn’t even begin to address the sport’s techniques and disciplines and the nuances thereof. And you still have to figure out who’s running the relays, what order and how to keep the stick off the ground.

But if coaching is a proactive activity, and I’m defining “proactive” as referring to plans or strategies that are done before, with forethought, why cannot some of that forethought be directed towards actions that prevent injuries?

“Pre-hab” is the word I’m thinking about here. Pre-hab has come into the vernacular over the last decade and can be defined as efforts to prepare (you can read that as strengthen or stabilize) the body’s weak links. You may have learned about pre-hab as general prep, specific prep, anatomical adaptation or multi-lateral development but the common denominator here is that all these efforts involve forethought, thinking ahead to achieve a goal.

In truth the pursuit of excellence in our sport walks a fine line between health and injury. The body responds to the stresses placed upon it. It needs to be pushed to exceed one’s current state to accomplish exceptional things. Sometimes personal motivation or goal-directed behaviors can exceed one’s capacity to recover from the effort. It can become difficult to separate what one should do from what one feels compelled to do. It is a fine line and sometimes that line is almost invisible.

Knowing this and accepting this can allow one to prepare, something every coach learns early on—which is another “proactive effort,” by the way. The pre-hab efforts mentioned above are part of everyone’s practice plan anyway. What I’m suggesting here is a tweak of that plan. The addition of an exercise here, an action there or the creation of a new awareness by the athlete cannot only refine the level of skill but also make the expression of that skill more dynamic in a safer way.

In a true sense pre-hab is a component of progressive overload. Progressive overload is all about change, albeit little changes, but if you understand progressive overload and believe in it then the fact that improvement necessitates change should be a no-brainer.

I have always felt that half of all injuries are preventable. I always worked diligently to safely accomplish the goals I needed with minimal risk. Push and back off, challenge and allow recovery. As for the other 50%, the space junk? I kept my eyes open and looked twice.

In this issue you can take an in-depth look at why injuries happen. I’ve generated a joint complex by joint complex guide with suggestions and simple “tweaks” that can be easily and economically implemented into one’s daily training plan.