Having an injury free season is not about luck!

Sunday, 19 January 2014  |  Admin

New Year Resolutions…Injury Prevention

Mid-January may not be the time for making New Year resolutions but if those made on the 1st Jan are long forgotten, then a paper published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine may give you encouragement to make a new one.
The paper reviewed research on stretching, strength training, proprioception, and a combination of these to see which was the most effective at reducing injury. Over 25 trials, including 26,610 participants with 3464 injuries were analysed. 

So what works and what doesn’t?
They found that stretching produced no protective effect against injury, but strength training could reduce acute injuries by a third, and overuse injuries by almost a half! If training and racing 2014 is a goal, then strength training should be a large part of your training programme.

Strength training conditions the muscles in the body to take a higher load making them better able to withstand the stress of swim/cycle/run training and racing. A rounded strength training programme also helps to ensure a balance of muscle strength in the body. This should include some muscle specific strengthening but also some functional exercise (i.e. sport specific exercises with an emphasis on stability). A common mistake made in gyms is to just focus on the obvious muscle e.g. doing leg presses for the quadriceps (front of thigh) or hamstring curls for the back of the thigh. This help your thighs take greater training loads but injury is still a risk from a weak core and weak gluteals.

What should I be doing to stay injury free?
From treating runners and cyclists in the clinic, many of the problems I see (knees, hips, backs, shins) are traced back up the leg to weak gluteus medius and hip abductors, and poor leg stability. So if you are designing a strength programme for yourself I will give 2 simple gluteal exercises, and a stability exercise that you can add into your programme. In the next article I will add in some exercises for swimmers.

Gluteal Strengthening Exercises

For both of the exercises below it is really important that you lie with your hips facing the wall opposite you, if your start to lean backwards you will not work the correct areas. Holding on to a object at floor level e.g. leg of a table can help keep you in position if you find you have a tendency to roll backwards. 
You should feel the exercise work the area where the back pocket of your jeans would be. If you don’t move the leg backwards until you feel the contraction in this area. Keep your core engaged to ensure that your pelvis does not rock or move when performing the exercise

Sidelying leg raises 
Start Position: Lie on your side with the side to be strengthened on top. Bend the lower leg slightly at the hip and knee for stability and bring the top leg backwards. See picture below

1.    Pointing the toe towards the ceiling, slowly raise the upper leg until 2-3 inches over the hip
2.    From this position slowly lower and raise the leg (1 repetition)
3.    Build up to 3 sets of 12 repetitions 3 times a week


Side Lying Circles
Start Position: Lie on your side with the side to be strengthened on top. Bend the lower leg slightly at the hip and knee for stability and bring the top leg backwards. (Start position as per picture above)

1.    Raise the leg up to just above hip height. 
2.    While keeping the leg straight make a circle with the leg 
3.    Keep your abdominals engaged as this will help make sure that your hips don’t wobble as you make the circles
4.    Build up to 3 sets of 12 repetitions 3 times a week

Leg & Gluteal Stability Exercise

Supported Single Leg Squat
This exercise, when done correctly, works the hip and leg stabilisers as well as the quads. The goal is to prevent excessive knee movement. This is a difficult exercise to do correctly and should be done with care to avoid knee injury. Please read the following notes to get the most from this exercise:
•    The focus of this exercise is to make sure that your knee does not wobble as you squat down but that it remains in line with your 2nd & 3rd toes. If it drifts over the toes (you can no longer see them) or over the inside of the arch you have lost control of leg stability and should return to the start position
•    Only squat down as far as you can maintain control, and until this control is well established, hold on to the back of a chair for support. There is no need to squat any further than 90 degrees of knee flexion
•    Try to avoid twisting at the hips
•    Try to place your body weight through the heel and big toe while doing the exercise.
•    Start off with 1 set of 10-12 reps 2-3 days a week for the first week to allow the knee get used to the exercise and to avoid knee injury. Gradually build up to 3 sets of the exercise. Do not do this exercise if you feel knee pain.

Do the exercise in front of a mirror. Be honest with yourself about what you see!

1.    Stand on one leg with your other knee bent underneath you or out in front. Hold on to a back of a chair for support
2.    Paying close attention to the alignment of your knee and the 2nd & 3rd toes squat down until you can no longer prevent the knee from wobbling
3.    Slowly return to the start position



About the Author

Karen Doyle is a Physical Therapist based in Booterstown Co Dublin. Her favourite sports are hill running and rock climbing. Karen worked and travelled with the National Track Cycling Squad at World Cup Events from 2008-2012. Currently working in the Maple Clinic www.mapleclinic.ie, she can be contacted on 01-5441225

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