Why you should train whilst injured.

As sure as Man. City will finish in the European qualification places and Saracens will win more games than anyone in the Premiership (see what I did there?), so it is true that all athletes get injured. Good strength and conditioning programs can reduce injury risk, but you can’t completely account for the open environment of sport, and pure bad luck: a broken hand in martial arts, a knee caught in a boggy pitch, a shoulder landing awkwardly when tackled. If you play sport long enough, sooner or later, injuries happen.

Usually the first – logical – advice from a medical professional is to ‘rest the injury’. Instead, we as athletes often hear that advice as simply: ‘rest’. While your training goals and programming clearly need adapting during periods of injury, here are four reasons I believe it is critical to get back to training as quickly as practically possible following an injury:

1. To speed rehabilitation.

Starting with the obvious one – do you think when an international athlete gets injured, their medical and performance teams simply say, ‘go home, see you in a few weeks when the injury has healed’? The days of complete and lengthy rest are gone, and world class practitioners now use tools to facilitate and speed up the body’s natural healing processes. These tools are numerous and might include manual therapy. occlusion training, soft tissue work (manual or foam roller), stability or mobility training.

2. Every injury presents an opportunity.

You can’t focus on all things at all times, and injury can allow an athlete to concentrate their efforts on an area of weakness while they are out of action. For example, when tearing a hamstring muscle from the bone in the run up to last year’s rugby world cup, England rugby player Mako Vunipola took the opportunity to lean out to the lightest he had been for three years – an impossible task had he needed to fuel his body for playing week in week out. Especially during the early stages of rehab, if you can’t work on the injury, work around the injury, to improve elsewhere.

3. Harnessing social support.

An athlete’s identity is often deeply entwined with their ability to perform in their sport and to have it taken away can create a lonely experience (amongst many, England wing Tom Johnstone has recently discussed the experience). Having a strong social support system is important, and alongside family and friends, the athlete’s team mates, or training group can play a big part of making them feel supported.

4. Utilising the crossover effect

Loss of strength in the injured limb presents an issue when returning from long-term injury. This can affect bio-mechanics and gait, leading to issues further down the line. Anything we can do to safely limit this decline in strength , we should. The crossover effect is a well-established principle that recognises a strength increase in the injured limb after training the non-injured limb. For example, performing left leg presses while your right leg is injured could prevent significant strength loss in the right leg – putting the athlete in a better place to begin the strength building phase of rehabilitation.

There are further incentives to train as soon as is practical following injury, but the above reasons should be enough to encourage you back into the gym sooner rather than later. Learning as we do from the leaders in professional sports, our approach to significant injury at the Southern Academy of Sport is one of a team effort, with physios and strength coaches working in tandem to design a holistic program that gets the athlete from the treatment table, to training and back to competition as safely and quickly as possible.

If you have an injury and would like some help, contact us to discuss our Rehabilitation+ membership.

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Our mission is to help athletes optimise their physical performance and reduce injury risk, through delivering world class coaching and support.


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SN15 3RS

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