Thursday, December 5, 2013
The squat, and all variations of it (ie: front, back, overhead, Bulgarian, step-ups, lunges, etc), is the most effective exercise for improving overall lower body strength. If not performed correctly, the squat loses many of its benefits, such as posterior chain development and injury prevention.
Squatting to parallel, when the top of the thigh (be more specific, the hip crease) is parallel with the ground, is essential in posterior chain development. The glutes and hamstrings are not fully engaged until the athlete attains a parallel position. The glutes play a significant role in hip extension during running and jumping. Not squatting to parallel can place overemphasis on the quads and de-emphasize the role of the hamstrings. Another function of the parallel squat is injury prevention. Squatting to parallel develops the stabilizing muscles of the knee more efficiently, enhancing strength at a greater range of motion and helping to minimize the gap of the quad-to-hamstring strength ratio.
Squatting to parallel also promotes lean body mass gain by creating greater range of motion, thus increasing the motor units and muscles fibers being recruited. A squat to parallel creates greater time under tension, a common tool used by athletes and coaches to elicit hypertrophy, which leads to an overall increase in total work done without altering the rep scheme.
The joint angle created while squatting to parallel also enhances the stretch reflex and connective tissue strength. Squatting to parallel can increase the trainee’s functional flexibility and help the trainee become more comfortable and confident when bending his/her knees as well as maintain optimal hip flexibility, which ultimately may aid in the prevention of many major knee injuries. It is a common mistake to not squat to an appropriate depth in order to increase the weight on the bar. However, squatting with a limited range of motion will greatly increase the axial load on the spine and will also place much more stress on the knee due to the limited degree of flexion.
According to Jim Wendler, “Squatting isn’t bad for your knees, bad squatting is bad for your knees”.
Wednesday, December 4, 2013
With the increase of today’s youth participating in sports, it is important to protect our kids by providing safety equipment that is sized correctly. At the collegiate level there are equipment managers that are very skilled and practiced at properly fitting an athlete’s helmet and other protective gear, but at the secondary and youth level it is up to the coaches, parents and athletic trainers. According to the National Athletic TrainingAssociation Position Statement on Concussion, a helmet that fits properly on a child can help protect against catastrophic head injuries and reduce the severity of cerebral concussions. It also states that all safety equipment should meet the National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment or American Society for Testing and Materials Standards.
- Wet the athlete’s hair.
- Take the circumference of the athlete’s head around mid-forehead to occipital protuberance.
- Convert measurement with the size chart provided by the brand of the helmet.
- Have the athlete place the helmet on their head with the helmet deflated.
- Check ear holes for alignment.
- Check forehead clearance (2-3 finger width).
- Check face mask depth to nose (3 fingers).
- Check neck range of motion.
- Ensure the occipital protuberance is covered by padding.
- Check helmet stability by forward backward motion using the facemask for leverage.
- Check helmet stability with side to side motion using facemask as leverage.
- Check cheek pads --- change them out if they do not fit properly.
- Apply a downward pressure on dome of helmet to ensure no recoil or rebounding upward of the helmet.
- Ensure that chin strap is centered and securely fastened/
- Re-inflate the helmet properly according to manufacturer’s guidelines.
It is important to provide our youth with properly fitted safety equipment to help reduce the severity of an injury and protect them against injuries that they may sustain during practice and games.
Tuesday, December 3, 2013
Concussions have been a hot topic in the sports medicine world for the last several years. New rules and equipment have been established to help decrease the incidence of this injury in athletes of all types, from contact to non-contact sports; yet concussions are still very common. According to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “during 2001-2005, an estimated 207,830 emergency department (ED) visits for concussions and other traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) related to sports and recreation activities were reported annually, with 65% of TBIs occurring among children aged 5--18 years”.
Athletic Trainers are usually the first on the scene to evaluate an athlete who may have suffered a concussion after a hard blow to his head or body. They must make an accurate and quick decision to let the athlete return-to-play or pull him out of the game. This sometime can be relatively easy to do because symptoms are obvious but oftentimes it can be very puzzling and unclear as to whether the athlete actually has a concussion or not.
Moreover, Athletic Trainers must ensure that the athlete goes through a comprehensive return-to-play protocol. At the 4th International Conference on Concussion in Sport, it was established that “the cornerstone of concussion management is physical and cognitive rest until the acute symptoms resolve and then a graded program of exertion prior to medical clearance and return to play”. Athletic Trainers must then follow a thorough neuropsychological evaluation of the athlete until signs and symptoms disappear completely. The new Sport Concussion Assessment Tool or SCAT3, released early this year, offers a full assessment of the athlete’s brain that can be performed from day one, when the athlete suffered the concussion, all the way throughout his recovery and clearance. Athletic Trainers must be consistent with their concussion management and never let an athlete return to his sport until they are 100% positive that the athlete is ready to go.
Monday, December 2, 2013
If you ask anyone that has ever played sports, most will tell you about a coach that has had some sort of influence their life. Some are positive and unfortunately some are negative. As an aspiring coach, I was influenced and encouraged by a former coach to pursue a career in coaching. My coach, a former Navy Seal, had a positive influence that taught my teammates and me lessons in life that are more relevant today than they ever have been. He was all about doing things as a team and no one person is more important than the next. This involved things like each player wearing the same thing to practice. If it was 35 degrees and someone didn’t have their team sweatshirt, then no one could wear their sweatshirt for that practice. This helped individual players to be more responsible and for the team to hold each other accountable for their actions on and off the field.
A coach has a powerful influence on a player’s athletic career. If a player has a negative experience with a coach, there is a good chance that player is not going to continue playing that sport. Jim Krauel of NFHS says, “If the coach sets a negative example by behaving in an inappropriate or immature fashion, he or she has done a great disservice to the athletes, the program and his or her reputation.” This statement could not be any truer. How many times have we gone to a youth sporting event and watched as a coach or a parent spirals out of control in the stands or on the field.
The relationship between the coach and the parents is also extremely important in the player’s development. Coaches and parents that are on the same page can have a very positive influence on the player’s performance and overall experience. Ben Stephenson researched youth soccer players and found that players who experienced coaches (and parents) that were critical of poor performance had a negative influence on the player’s overall attitude. Coaches that encouraged players had a more positive effect on the player’s social environment on the team.
All in all, a coach’s influence not only affects the play on the field but also provides a positive social environment for the players.
Manual therapy is typically used to decrease adhesions or spasms within the muscle. In the field of sports medicine, manual therapy is used daily in order to treat athletes and get them back into competition as soon as possible. There are many different forms of manual therapy that have developed over the years. Massage, Trigger Point, Active Release, Passive Release, and Strain-Counterstrain are just a few. This post will focus on the Strain-Counterstrain technique.
Strain-Counterstrain was developed by Dr. Lawrence Jones, D.O., F.A.A.O. in 1955. Jones and Randall Kusunose, P.T., O.C.S. went on to develop the Jones Institute in 1988. The Jones Institute is the only organization to certify healthcare professionals in the technique.
Unique from other methods, Strain-Counterstrain is so gentle that often patients feel as if the clinician isn’t even doing anything. This is beneficial for the athlete who may have a low pain tolerance. The muscle spasms as a form of protection of itself, but often this spasm can linger and then cause additional issues and pain. The Strain-Counterstrain technique puts the muscle in a shortened position, allowing the spasm to relax, and in turn returning the muscle to normal function.
Strain-Counterstrain is a technique that can be utilized by any healthcare professional on his or her patients. It is a technique that is easy on both the clinician and the patient, making it extremely beneficial. As an athletic trainer, I have found tremendous success using this form of manual therapy.
Mary Cain will soon be a household name. The simple term “amazing” falls extremely short when attempting to describe this 17-year old’s already prominent career as a runner. As a mere teenager, she made the USA team and competed in the IAAF World Championships 1,500 meters in Moscow during the summer of 2013. She also happened to run the fastest time ever by a high school student at that distance (4:04.62); accordingly, she will be striving towards the Olympic Games in Rio 2016.
Mary Cain was actively recruited by all the major NCAA Division I powerhouse track and field programs to spend her four years of athletic eligibility within their respectable systems. However, considering her esteem and global opportunities, she made the monumental decision to skip out on the college experience and turn professional right out of high school. While embarking on the quest for professional success, which no one doubts she will soon find, Mary will be coached by Alberto Salazar while being a part of The Oregon Project, training with partners such as Mo Farah and Galen Rupp.
The most interesting aspect of this entire situation is that young Mary Cain will also be pursuing a college education while running and competing on the professional circuit. By basic definition she will be what the NCAA deems a “student-athlete”; however, she will be making money while running on the professional circuit. There are no current rules or bylaws in place that will prohibit Mary from going down this road, but one would think that the decision-makers within the NCAA will not be happy. If Mary Cain is successful in her young adventure, then a 17-year old single-handedly made the conversation of compensating student-athletes a moot point.
Sunday, November 24, 2013
Exercising during pregnancy allows for women to feel more energetic, manage the physical demands of labor, and bounce back mentally and physically in the postpartum period. Benefits also include less weight gain, more restful sleep, decreases chance of morning sickness, and if participating in group exercise, it can be great for social health. The real goal of exercising while pregnant is to maintain good health and fitness into the postpartum period; women will bounce back from labor even faster if they stick to an exercise program through their pregnancy. The body goes through many musculoskeletal changes during pregnancy, including the body adjusting to the shift of a woman’s center of gravity. Exercising while pregnant can aid the body in altering to these changes with ease. Hormonal changes consist of increasing levels of estrogen and relaxin that cause joints to become more flexible. Staying physically fit during pregnancy improves muscle function and muscle soreness decreases as a result of exercising. Light resistance training program is definitely effective for both mom and baby, however there is not a great deal of research on heavy resistance training while pregnant. I assume it would be extremely difficult to find a group of pregnant women willing to “test” if it is beneficial for them and their baby.
Resistance training while pregnant provides women with many physiological maternal benefits. A finding by the National Strength and Conditioning Association states that women who exercise regularly had decreased incidence of pregnancy-induced hypertension as well. When designing a training program, importance should be placed on core work in order to counteract the lumbar stress and help relieve back pain. Laying on their stomach and machines that press up against their bellies should be avoided.
Friday, November 22, 2013
Any daily workout can be great, but what happens when it becomes monotonous and boring? How does an exerciser go about changing their routine to make it fresh again and push through their plateau?
Add in a companion! A workout partner is great; however, try working out with the one companion that would never let you down and would do anything to stay by your side: your dog.
The human-canine relationship is a beautiful bond that can never be broken. According to CBS News, the bond between an owner and dog is comparable to parents and their baby. Dogs care about their owners as much as, if not more, the owner cares for their pet. This bond makes for a perfect workout partner because both sides are looking out for one another equally. In a study conducted by James Serpell, PhD, it was concluded that owning a pet can help reduce minor health issues by just simply being around. However, due to the fact that dogs need to be walked, health and fitness increase along with the relationship between the two.
In a similar study by Shane Brown B.Ed., and Ryan Rhodes PhD, pet owners, on average, have a higher activity level and bluntly state, “Acquiring a dog should be explored as an intervention to get people more physically active.” Also in this study, these men state the obvious by saying that walking in an effective form of physical activity that is low cost, accessible for almost everyone, and convenient. Even though they make this obvious conclusion, it is also mentioned that it is a highly underused form of activity.
So what are different forms of exercise that can be done that are beneficial for both?
- Walking at a steady state
- Walking/jogging intervals
- Hill climbs
- Fetch for both (aka sprints)
Hanging out with your dog can be more valuable for each of you than expected, but it will also help build a better relationship for the two of you! Get active and go play!
Monday, November 18, 2013
This past weekend, I watched the Major League Soccer (MLS) playoffs with some friends who have not watched very much soccer. When the game was about to begin and the players walked onto the field holding the hands of little kids, one of my friends asked me why they did that. I started thinking and finally asked myself, “Why do they do that?”
I have always seen kids walking out of the tunnels with players, and I have always thought how cool it would have been to be one of those kids growing up. But I never asked myself why. Are these children the sons and daughters of the players or employees of the organization? Perhaps these children are youth league players from the local community? Or, does the MLS have these kids out there to defuse tension between players prior to the start of the battle on the pitch? Either way, I like to watch the kids walk out with the players. The smiles on their faces, and the excitement that you can see, provide a lifetime of memories that most people only dream about.
When I researched this question, I found answers that went along with all of the questions I stated above. The most widely found answer that I came across was that the players were from local youth teams and some were even players from the organizations youth academy team. This seems to be the most likely answer considering soccer greats like Wayne Rooney once walked onto the field as a youngster.
Whatever the answer is, I hope that soccer never gets rid of this tradition. I think it would be great to see other sports embrace this awesome opportunity for young fans of other sports.