Returning to Sport After a Break

DR. MICHAEL CRISP (OSTEOPATH, STRENGTH & CONDITIONING COACH)

Returning to competitive sport after a break, whether it is due to injury, holidays, or the off-season, is a high injury risk time period.

When we have time off sport or exercise our tissues de-condition very quickly, with evidence suggesting we may begin to decondition within 7 days of complete rest (eg. bed rest). When this process happens it negatively affects a range of body systems including; musculoskeletal (muscles, bones, and joints), neuromuscular (nerve and muscle connections), cardiovascular (heart and blood flow), and respiratory (lungs and breathing) systems.

When returning to sport, we must gradually increase the load on these systems. If we increase the load too quickly or too significantly, tissues will break down and injury will occur. This results in more time on the sidelines and increased deconditioning, which can become a vicious and repetitive cycle.

“The specific combination of consistent preparation and individualised programming ensures that you are doing everything in your power to guarantee you get the maximum benefits from your exercise, perform at an optimal level, and minimise injury risk.”

There are a few things we must consider when returning to sport; preparation (pre-season, pre-game, and post-game), programming/planning, and injury management.

In terms of preparation, we predominantly focus on physical preparation, but psychological (mental), tactical (tactics), and technical (skills) preparation are also important. Physical preparation for competitive sport involves training speed, maximum strength, endurance, and flexibility. Improving these 4 components provides enhanced performance and decreased injury risk. It is important that all 4 of these components are trained as most sports require some level of each; however certain sports may require a higher focus on certain components.

For example, a long-distance runner will focus more on endurance training than max strength training, whereas a weightlifter will focus more on max strength than endurance, while footballers and netballers usually need to train all components relatively even.

“Training the components of physical preparation may include different types of running, cycling, swimming, resistance training (ie. gym exercises), pilates, yoga, stretching, or sport-specific training.”

Pre-game preparation is more concerned with nutrition, sleep, and warm-up. It is vital that we have the right fuel in the tank before we exercise to prolong fatigue as long as possible. Sleep is important every night, not just the night before a game or event, with research suggesting that athletes who average less than 7 hours per night have a 1.7x increased injury risk.

A thorough pre-game warm-up is necessary to ensure; our muscles and joints are mobile, our muscles are activated, our body temperature is slightly elevated, and our heart & breathing rates are slightly elevated to improve blood flow and provide oxygen to tissues.

With regards to planning and programming, it is more important for those athletes who wish to train on most/all days of the week. When training at such a high frequency, athletes should have a weekly plan from their coach/trainer to ensure that they have adequate rest periods to allow muscles to recover and adapt efficiently to provide the maximum benefit from the exercise.

A common mistake for athletes, whose sports involve running, is performing their lower body strength sessions between or before training and games, or excessive running between or before training and games, as they often don’t consider that running is still “lower body strength training”.

The specific combination of consistent preparation and individualised programming ensures that you are doing everything in your power to guarantee you get the maximum benefits from your exercise, perform at an optimal level, and minimise injury risk.

We must also consider post-game recovery as part of our preparation for the next performance. Post-game recovery is split up into initial (<24hrs), intermediate (1-3 days), and long-term (4+ days). Initial recovery involves; nutrition, active cool-down, and sleep, and depending on your sport may also require ice/heat or compression. The next 1-3 days includes; active recovery (eg. walking, swimming, golf, etc.), and self-therapy (eg. stretching), but may also still require ice/heat, and if there are any injury concerns may require a visit to your osteopath for management.

Long-term management is only required when an injury has been sustained, and your osteopath will map out a recovery timeline and progress you through the necessary rehabilitation to ensure you can return to your sport with the lowest possible injury risk.

Here is a main call to action?

We are here to help! Booking Online is the most convenient way to lock in the clinician & time you want.