San Diego, New Orleans, Chicago, Baltimore, Buffalo, Houston, NY Jets, Minnesota, and Arizona. What do all of these NFL teams have in common? They were the most injured teams in the NFL by metrics looking at volume and magnitude in 2016. What else do we know from the outside about these teams? Well, only one made the play-offs and the injuries definitely impacted the teams' season in a negative manner. In fact, how many coaches lost jobs within these organizations based on the teams performance? It would be unfair to say injuries were the sole cause, but they played a significant factor.
As a coach, I've been through and seen first hand the stress that goes into trying and fostering healthy athletes. Along this lines, I've been part of two coaching structures that really paid a lot of attention to heading-off injuries and the positive impact this had on performance and outcomes. I've tested thousands of military members and helped with injury dynamics and seen/used some things that I thought really worked, but many didn't make a difference.
For example, many tools available to clinicians today upon further review aren't really valid or reliable in preventing or predicting injuries. I think, too, that those tests out there that take athletes out of movement patterns akin to both training and competing don't really tell an accurate picture and their reliability is questionable as well.
One training aspect that really amazes me is how lost we are about the process. Think about it, we have strength and conditioning professionals in place that have very little clinical experience in analyzing the injury pathway in real-time during training before significant injuries happen. On the other hand, we have therapy professionals guiding programs with little practical strength and conditioning experience outside of computer-generated rehab exercises. In addition, we have sports-scientists who are really ex-strength coaches with no experience outside of the weight-room and researchers who rarely have ever left the lab providing data and input that really is not significant. So, why should it surprise anyone the extent that multi-million dollar football corporations struggle with injuries.
The problem really lies in the process, doesn't it. We have to quit fooling ourselves about injuries and the training process. Load up the joints with a lot of external weight repetitively on the joints and you'll get injuries. Focus on having athletes chase accumulating physical power for healthiness, and you'll surely get injuries. Allow your players to get out of shape for their sport and you'll get injuries. Use other sports like cross-fit as your teaching mechanism and you likely will get injuries. Neglect to have a pathway for athletes to openly discuss injuries and your inviting them. Employ strength and conditioning coaches who know little about injuries and injuries will seek and destroy your athletes. Forget about including injury prevention pathways, data-set tools, and training mechanisms into the training landscape and injuries will find your athletes. Believe that having athletes stand in cold water after workouts will head-off all injuries and you'll be misguided about injuries. Try and sell your athletes on yoga as the answer and injuries will come calling. Avoid developing healthy relationships with athletic trainers, physical therapists, and sports-physicians and you'll probably act surprised when your athletes get injured. Lastly don't video and dissect training sessions and injuries will find your athletes like a precision-guided missile.
C'mon, some injuries happen, I understand that, especially in the contact sports, but robotic, non-relevant injury prevention training protocols combined with putting our heads in the sand isn't the answer either.