When Government restrictions ease over the coming months, no doubt we will all be jumping out of our skin to return to sport. Due to isolation, there will be a huge spike in activity that our bodies aren’t necessarily prepared for, potentially resulting in injury. So let’s talk about the pitfalls and how best to avoid them to ensure you are sport ready post Covid-19.
Tendons lose their love for explosive movements
Tendons classically do not like holidays and they do not like change. Therefore, tendons can be susceptible to injury when activity is increased too aggressively and too suddenly.
If you have continued to exercise in the COVID-19 period by way of walking or running – kudos to you! – as these count towards keeping our tendons, like the Achilles, happy. However, if you plan on returning to explosive sport like touch football, netball or rugby league, you should plan on throwing in some plyometric or jumping exercises sometime soon. For the Achilles this could be in the form of short stints of skipping or various hopping drills like hopping on the spot – performed in 30sec intervals and building over time. Impact absorption can also be practised with broad jumps, box jumps or landing from a high step – starting with double leg and moving towards single leg variations.
Ignoring sport-specific exercises
Sport is a combination of multiple types of fitness and skills – so it’s interesting that a lot of people have gone for long road runs in this period of COVID-19, but not a lot of people are down at the oval sprinting or performing agility drills.
Almost all running sports require short bursts of high-speed running. If you do not practice speed work, no amount of strength training will create the same effect. Speed work is typically done in intervals. Picking a time or distance should reflect the sport you play. For example, netball would require running or sprinting for up to 4 seconds, whereas rugby league could be for up to 100m. You should also consider the amount of sprint efforts you would have to make in your chosen sport. Be sure to take long recovery breaks (2-5min) between maximal sprinting practice to ensure top performance.
Training high-speed running and agility is essential to ensure those power muscles cope on return to sport and are critical to sport ready status – hamstring, calves and quads in particular. Tears can easily occur without practice as their tolerance for speed drops as the period of rest goes on.
Going too heavy too fast with weight training
Again, depending on whether you had access to weights at home, where you restart should always be relative to how much time you had off. Joint sprains, muscles tears and spinal disc injury are all possible if you choose to go too hard too soon.
It is natural to be sore for 1-2 days post exercise however overdoing weight training can lead to excessive breakdown of muscle tissue and protein. This leads to muscle damage, pain and at its worst can leak into the bloodstream. The message here is to load progressively. A smart way to know if you’re ready to progress is to rate the intensity of your sessions on a scale from 0 – 10 (referred to as the Rated Perceived Exertion scale), with 10 being maximal activity. Depending on what your goals are, sessions should sit between 4-8 or “somewhat hard to very hard”. As your sessions become easier on the scale, you can start to think about increasing the weight.
Your priority when returning to use of a barbell or performance of Olympic lifts should always be technique. Ensure you have warmed up your shoulders and hips with various activation exercises and start with a bare bar in front of a mirror. If you’re feeling a little stiff or out of sync, continue with a lighter weight and progressively add to this as your form improves. You may need to spend more time dynamically stretching or releasing muscles trigger points prior to your workout.
The overall message here is to be prepared for what you want to do ‘on the other side’ or risk injury and more time off. At Physio Connex we are always here to help – with a team of highly trained professionals in sport and performance, we can guide you in a safe manner. Our programs are tailored to the specific demands of your sport – whether it’s social netball or first grade footy. To ensure you are sport ready post covid-19 reach out to us via our contact form, or give us a call on 43145183. We are open and able to assist, either at our premises in Wyong or via a telehealth consult.