Recovery, Rest, and Reset
Practicing and training for sport can take its toll on the body. From years of accumulation of volume from competition, naturally, athletes’ bodies will form different types of imbalances that allow them to play at a high level. If left unchecked over time the imbalances will ultimately lead to injury.
The focus of this presentation is not to ‘balance’ the athlete out, so to speak, but it is to look at common areas of overuse (shoulders, lower back, knees, and lower extremities) and apply principles of evaluation and intervention to mitigate risk and restore healthy movement patterns needed for sport.There are four different neurological laws at work when looking at using different tools and implements to course-correct dysfunction that can arise from years of sports training and competition. Davis’ law is in effect when muscles are brought closer together, tone and tightness will occur. Any type of overhead or throwing sport will cause this to happen on the dominant or throwing side of the body. Hilton’s law states that the nerve that supplies the joint of any injury also supplies the skin and muscles around it too. Addressing imbalances globally as a system versus one specific targeted area will have a bigger influence on restoring health and movement much quicker and longer lasting.
Arndt’s law deals with electrical currents in the body. The stronger the current the more it will inhibit muscles causing biomechanics and firing patterns to get out of sequence. If currents are not restored in muscle groups, it can have a negative effect to the point of completely shutting off a muscle group leading to overuse and injury to accompanying muscles around or nearby. Lastly, the Law of Facilitation addresses how after years of allowing the body to move with dysfunction, it will be harder to correct and restore health because the neurons have ‘grooved’ the body to move that way for so long.
When it comes to intervention, some simple assessments will aid in what approach to take at first. Knowing musculature and movement patterns in the scapular of the shoulder is critical before selecting modalities to address dysfunction. Pain mechanisms of the lower back and all the different layers that can weigh in on the culprits of pain must be considered before applying any intervention strategies.
The same goes for knees and any other lower extremities as well. In essence all these areas of the body work and influence each other. Simply put, don’t always look at where the pain is at, but evaluate and address other fascial lines, and joints above and below the stream of the pain point. One of the most common patterns we see is the lateral sling. The dominant side hamstring and glute tend to tighten and influence the opposing quadratus lumborum muscle. This is most seen in sprinters. Addressing tissue and tightness in opposing muscle groups is critical to be successful in any interventions applied.
One other common imbalance you see in sport is the upper cross syndrome. With this pattern, you see rounded shoulders with shortened tight pecs in the anterior and long and weak traps/rhomboids on the posterior side. Work to lengthen the strong, tight muscle groups on the anterior and strengthen the long weak musculature on the posterior. Over time, you will see a change in form and function lowering the risk of injury or overuse.
One last consideration when dealing with interventions is programming exercises in the weight room. Because there are so many imbalances with athletes in different sports, work to use more uni-lateral exercises. Bi-lateral exercises will tend to increase imbalances leading to untimely injuries especially when dysfunction already is existent. By utilizing more uni-lateral exercises, you will not only course-correct the athlete’s body over time, but you will also force muscles and systems that are weaker to be addressed and support the dominant side of the body. Though you will never fully ‘balance’ the athlete’s body, you will minimize any gaps from getting too big from one side of the body to the other. In the end, you will have a healthier, more athletic, biomechanically efficient athlete that is available more often for practice and competition.