By Dev K. Mishra, M.D.
President, Sideline Sports Doc
Clinical Assistant Professor of Orthopedic Surgery, Stanford University
- It’s easy to ignore proper recovery when you’re in the middle of a busy season, or if you’re preparing for an important individual competition
- Over-training in the days leading up to gameday can lead to increased injury risk and decreased performance
- Focus on recovery with reduced training load, proper nutrition, hydration, sleep, and tissue mobilization in the days leading up to your event, and reduce your physical training load
When you’ve got an important event coming up, or when you’re in the midst of your season, it can be tempting to overwork yourself and ignore recovery. The problem with this is that you can increase injury risk over the course of a season. And if you go into your important competition overworked or tired it’ll definitely affect your performance. The key is to find a way to include recovery during your season, and especially before events. Doing so will reduce injury risk and give you the best chance of peak performance.
This article caught my eye this week: “Their Players Missed 156 Games Due to Injury in One Season. Now They’re One of The Healthiest Teams in America.” This story, published in Stack, outlines the experience at St. Xavier high school outside Cincinnati. The school head athletic trainer utilized wearable tracking technology to assess their key player’s training loads. The coaches and trainers thought they were approaching practice loads intelligently, but when they analyzed data they found their loads were far too high the day prior to gameday. The result is that players went into games fatigued. When they made changes to their Thursday practices they had a dramatic reduction in injuries.
It’s hard to completely attribute the reduced injuries only to the change in training but there’s no doubt it played a role. There are lessons to be learned for teams and individuals from their experience.
The first lesson is to use data if possible. A wearable tracker can give you great data, and I’d encourage you to use one if it’s feasible. Not every team or individual has access to a tracker so otherwise do the best you can by carefully evaluating on paper what your training schedules look like.
The second lesson is if you’re a team playing weekly games, make sure the two or three days leading up to gameday is reasonably light. Focus on hydration, sleep, and tissue mobility. Many teams will focus on tactical preparation and ease up on physical preparation. This is particularly challenging if you are playing multiple games each week, as many professional teams do. These teams employ multiple individuals such as athletic trainers, physical therapists, performance specialists, etc. to get their players as fit as possible as fast as possible.
If you’re an individual trying to peak for an important competition your best option would be to use a coach to help design an optimal training schedule. This is especially useful for distance events such as marathon or triathlon, where training loads must be very carefully monitored. If you don’t have access to a coach, then the same basic principle for teams would apply to an individual too: ease up for the two or three days leading up to your event, and focus on your nutrition, hydration, tissue mobility, and sleep.