“Injuries occur when athlete’s don’t properly control their sharp deceleration and change of direction.”
Sounds a little counterintuitive for athletes, right? Athletes are always being told to be quick and powerful. But here’s the thing… injuries occur when athlete’s don’t properly control their sharp deceleration and change of direction. What exactly do I mean by “deceleration and change of direction”? This process consists of slowing down and ultimately ceasing motion in one direction completely, and cutting, or changing direction quickly!
“The faster an athlete is moving, the more force and control is needed to slow the body down.”
We all see this on the field when a ball carrier jukes a linebacker or a basketball player shakes his defender with a crossover. To better understand what’s happening, let’s take a closer look at the highlight reel. The athlete is moving in one direction, but has to slow down or stop before changing directions. The first factor to consider is that the faster an athlete is moving, the more force and control is needed to slow the body down. Also, big changes in direction require greater control to cut versus smaller changes in direction.
“Motor control and strength to hold certain positions … is foundational and IS something we can train!”
So now that we have the concept of cutting, what can happen if it isn’t controlled? Injuries! For example, landing from a jump with the knee caving in or suddenly stopping on a planted foot from an all out sprint can lead to knee ligament injuries. Here’s the thing: any attempt to push oneself to improve performance challenges our body to be able to increase its ability to perform new motions. The key is to be prepared. Motor control and strength to hold certain positions, and to move in and out of those positions, is foundational and IS something we can train!
One of the first ways we can train this is by standing tall on your tip-toes, hips and knees fully extended, arms reaching to the sky. Then, drop into the athletic position. Things to be aware of are keeping your shoulders lined up vertically over the hips, while keeping your hips and knees slightly bent, knees tracking over the toes, and silent feet. Stick the landing!
Once the athlete masters this simple movement, we can a similar movement stepping off a box, and eventually progress to forward motion (bounding) and side-to-side movements. Many times doing 3-5 repetitions of each drill at a time is more than enough to emphasize the learning of the movement and position. The goal is to learn and commit to memory the motions themselves through proper movement and efficiency. It is not just about strength building. This really helps youth athletes learn to use their bodies. We also like to keep the repetitions low to minimize the impact on joints, which can accelerate wear and tear over time; keeping ground contacts to a minimum allows us to train appropriately without unnecessary risk.
To strengthen this movement pattern without the impact we can focus on performing negative squats and/or lunges. Try slowly lowering yourself to the bottom of a squat or lunge slowly (3-5 second lowering) for sets of 6.These take a toll on the body, so don’t do too many! Two sets of 6 is more than enough.
“Control your movement to be able to stay safe and explode into your next step.”
Success in sport by honing specific skills will get you noticed, but learning how to control your body will keep you on the field. Sometimes, you just have to learn to slow it down, control your movement to be able to stay safe and explode into your next step.
-Shane Adamos, CSCS
For more tips on optimizing athletic performance FOLLOW US on:
- Instagram: http://www.instagram.com/SportsPerformancePT
- Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/SportsPerformancePT
- YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/c/SportsPerformancePT