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Preparing for off-season, preseason, competitive season, post-season

INJURY PREVENTION FOR ATHLETES

By Cierra Washington, ATC

One primary culprit of injuries in athletes, or anyone for that matter, is a lack of proper conditioning. Let’s focus on athletic injuries. Particularly at the start of the fall, winter or spring seasons, we see an influx of patients who have some kind of pain or problem often linked to the fact that they have been relatively inactive in their weeks leading up to those tryouts. This lack of physical activity means general fitness levels decrease significantly, making the return to any sports season more difficult.

When returning back to any sport, it is important to treat the body appropriately, with care and attention. While it is important to train for the upcoming sport, it is even more important to start with a basic level of physical fitness. For example, if someone was a couch potato all summer, they would not be able to get up and run a 5k without some sort of complication whether it is cardiovascular or muscular. In order to have the body react as we would like it to, we need to train it appropriately.

There are four seasons to consider when looking at a training program: off-season, pre-season, in-season and post-season.

  1. The off-season is used to re-introduce the physical demands placed on the body with general physical activity, as well as to develop cardio-respiratory fitness. During this time, the athlete should be focusing on light weights and increased duration of workouts as to slowly increase their endurance, while not fully neglecting their strength training program.
  2. Next in line, is preseason, which is when the athlete focuses primarily on increasing their intensity, maintaining their endurance, and incorporating multiple types of training. Multiple types of training include but are not limited to strength training, balance training, plyometric training, and agility work.
  3. Up next, is the competitive season, also known as in-season. During the competitive season the training program becomes less about intensity and more about functional fixes to better personal weaknesses and maintaining strength.
  4. Last but not least, is the post-season, which most people overlook. Active rest allows the body recovery time from the previous competitive season. The first two weeks after a competitive season should be complete rest. The post season should allow for ample time to rehabilitate any injuries, improve strength of weakened muscle groups, and mental recovery.

When athletes do not follow the guidelines for preparing for the upcoming season, they are significantly increasing their chances of injury during the season. According to the Nationwide Childrens’ Hospital, 50% of injuries sustained by younger athletes playing organized sports can be avoided if the athlete was properly conditioned to play their game. If an athlete chooses to participate in multiple sports throughout the year, they are more likely to maintain a general level of physical fitness as well as decrease their chances of injury during the season. According to the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS), specialized athletes are twice as likely to sustain a gradual onset/repetitive-use injury as athletes who did not specialize.

In conclusion, we have determined that general conditioning should be started before the season begins to prep the athlete for maximum participation with minimal injury risks. Whether you participate in another sport during the off season of your main sport to maintain your fitness levels, or you start mid-summer to re-train your body for sport, JUST START 4-6 WEEKS BEFORE THE SEASON! If you have questions about setting up a proper conditioning program, call Loudoun Sports Therapy Center TODAY at 703-450-4300.

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