Injuries. They are a pain, literally. As a sports fan I see players getting injured regularly. Michael Owen the soccer player has had a career plagued by hamstring injuries. Hamstring injuries seem to be a common issue even at “park” level. Shin splints are another and of course shoulders, knees and ankles are the more common joint problems. I want to focus here on “overuse” injuries like hamstrings and shin-splints.
Why do we get injured? We don’t warm up correctly, right? Well do you think Michael Owen warms up correctly? He has the best sports science on his side (apparently) but he still gets injured. And add to that list a heap of other professional athletes in various sports and disciplines. Of course accidents are going to happen but rarely do you “accidently” tear a hamstring! You may bust a knee in a tackle or twist an ankle landing awkwardly but hamstrings, they stretch and tear – why?
So you know I’m going to have an opinion right? Lol.
Our body is a series of muscles, joints, bones and connective tissues (plus the occasional brain, nervous system etc…) commonly described as the musculoskeletal system. The fundamental operational aspect of this system is the kinetic chain which is the relationship between joints, bones and muscles and what happens when activity occurs. From the ankles at the bottom of the chain to the cervical spine at the top everything functions, or is supposed to function, as a single unit. When activity occurs each part of the chain performs its function relative to the others.
The key to the proper functioning of our body is the kinetic chain doing its job correctly. Ankles, hips and the thoracic spine are mobility joints and knees, lumbar spine and cervical spine are stability joints. Herein lies a big problem. The mobility joints need to be mobilised during a warm-up and similarly muscles, they need to be activated. If these two key components are not addressed during a warm-up then problems will likely ensue.
A proper warm-up (let’s call it an integrated warm-up) consists of various components including self myofascial release (SMFR), static and dynamic stretching, mobilising joints, activating muscles and core activation movements. The key to the warm-up process is ensuring the kinetic chain is switched on and doing its job, any components missed can result in malfunction and injury. This is particularly so for more intense workouts. There is a warning here! Regular, intense workouts without an integrated warm-up will in all likelihood lead to a serious injury either an over-use type, muscle tear or a joint failure. None are good!
I wanted to focus on 2 injuries particularly. Hamstring tears and shin-splints.
Both injuries in a lot of cases have their “causal factor” being a problem with the kinetic chain. Remember mobilising joints and activating muscles! Too often we see a distinct lack of mobility in ankles resulting in knees becoming “mobile” (remember ankles are mobility joints, knees stability) and therefore performing incorrectly resulting in knee pain and/or lower leg issues. A lack of ankle mobility can also result in lower-leg muscle tightness and this results in shin-splints. Think of a woman that wears heels and then runs after work. The high heels are immobilising the ankles and doing a great disservice to the kinetic chain!
Similarly in our leg musculature we tend to ignore our gluteals. The glute max (the key muscle in the gluteal group) is the single largest muscle in our body and yet who stretches glutes? Who has ever activated glutes? If this is such a large muscle and it has a close relationship with muscles in the hamstring group (it does), what would happen if it wasn’t doing it’s job properly? Well the answer is the hamstrings have to “compensate” for the lack of gluteal involvement and over-work. What then usually happens is some kind of failure. I would lay money on Michael Owen not having ever done a proper glute activation! Big claim but I’d be keen to know! Lol.
The message of this blog is know your body! Establish a warm-up protocol that works for you! Beat injuries, particularly recurring injuries, once and for all! It can be done, you may need help however. Who do you turn to??