Jan 29, 2015
Injury Prevention Frustrations

By Vern Gambetta

It seems today’s sports pages often read like a medical report. I find it paradoxical that with all the advances in athletic development, sports medicine, and sport science, we are seeing the type, number, and severity of the injures that we still do. So, what can be done?

Let’s start with a couple of problems where there is universal agreement:

1. The extended competitive season does not allow for an off-season when training can be done to both build and rebuild the athlete as well as recharge their batteries. Top players in some sports have gone as long as three years without more than a three-week break from competition!

2. We are now seeing the downside of early specialization and lack of physical education at younger ages. These athletes arrive at the highest levels of their sport with poor general athletic skills, but finely honed sport skills. It is a house made of cards. They have the sport skills, but not the fundamental movement skills to stand the test of the competitive cauldron. The strong and gifted sometimes survive, but mostly the weak are cast by the wayside.

The solutions are rather simple, but certainly uncomfortable. It is obvious there will have to be some radical changes and that there is no quick fix.

Realistically, the extended competitive schedule will not change. That being the case, all those in athletic development, sports medicine, and sport science need to unify our efforts. In essence, we need to get on the same page (or at least in the same room) and come to some consensus regarding logical solutions to the problem.

Because the problems are systemic, the solutions must be systemic. It certainly is not more hamstring prevention or rehabilitation programs, or more or less small-sided games. Rather, we need to look at the whole performance team–including the composition and structure of that team. We need to look at the developmental pathways and see what can be done in the short-term, medium-term, and long-term to develop and implement a bottom-up systemic approach.

The goal at the end of the development journey is simple: When the athletes arrive at the elite level, all physical limitations are eradicated, fundamental movement skills are thoroughly developed, and they are ready physically, psychologically, technically and tactically to thrive and compete to win in the competitive arena. The task is to turn those words into action.

Vern Gambetta, MA, is President of Gambetta Sports Training Systems in Sarasota, Fla. The former Director of Conditioning for the Chicago White Sox, he has also worked extensively with basketball, soccer, and track and field athletes. He is a frequent contributor to Training & Conditioning. Vern also maintains his own blog.

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