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Existentialism and Injury Prevention – Say What?

Catchy title, no? Don’t hit delete just yet – give me one or two paragraphs and I will explain. Like me, I hope most of you need a brief refresher on the definition of existentialism. An existentialist defines their own meaning in life. In short, they try to make rational decisions despite existing in an irrational universe. Existentialism is fundamentally a philosophy of existence.

What does this have to do with injury prevention? For me, everything and nothing! Here’s why: I understand and make the gentle claim that injury prevention is a paradox, a misnomer. Moreover, injury prevention is a sham, it’s two shams! It does not exist. I offer instead that injury, in particular injuries secondary to contact or those defined as acute, exist as a result of an irrational and chaotic environment, injury prevention, no such thing. Skiers, cyclists, footballers, gymnasts, cheerleaders, dancers, athletes; humans, I am talking to you. Chronic injuries or injuries secondary to some dysfunction in your training will be discussed below.

So how can I write a blog on something that does not exist you must be asking yourself by now? If curious, continue reading. If not, now is the time to hit delete and go enjoy another cup of coffee.

Let’s flip the script here and embrace injury as opportunity. In the words of Ryan Holiday, perhaps injury can become the obstacle that is your path to progress, not perfection. And if injury prevention does not exist, what does? The answer is: The variables that you can control in a training program - and what are these variables that are controllable? These are training frequency, duration, and intensity. In addition, there is exercise selection, training load (external and internal), recovery, sleep, nutrition, self-care routines, and daily habits that maximize your potential. Any disruption to the homeostatic environment of the items above and you may be primed for injury or insult – physical and/or mental.

Injuries can be defined as acute, chronic, or an acute exacerbation of a chronic ailment. An acute injury occurs in one event – damn that rock that locked up my chain and sent me flying over the handlebars! A chronic injury manifests itself over time. One who ignores the constant nagging of anterior shin pain might present with a stress fracture months after the onset of the discomfort. Finally, an acute exacerbation of a chronic ailment is often related

to postural malalignment, joint mobility dysfunctions, or stability and motor control issues. A functional movement screen (FMS), offered at XIP, is a muscular-skeletal assessment, sort of like your yearly dental evaluation, that evaluates how well you move. Your personal FMS score is one tool to assess your movement quality and recognize opportunities for future injury or provide feedback for what caused one to occur.

It is the chronic injury and the acute exacerbation of a chronic injury that may be "mitigated" (I didn’t say prevented) from knowing how well you move based on your movement screen score, performance testing data, your movement fluency and an experienced coach's eye and intuition. And what better time to potentially make less severe, serious, or painful an injury that may occur when returning to sport following an unanticipated interruption – think spring and summer 2020 and the COVID - 19 virus.

For many athletes this "downtime" during quarantine has created a lull in sport participation and high intensity activity. A sudden increase in volume without proper ramp up in your training correlates with increased risk for injury, this we know. Those who have pre-existing injury, chronic or acute, are at even greater risk in their return to sport or activity. Be responsible in your return to performance this fall, Rome wasn't built in a day, and the recipe for athletic success and sustainable health and performance is best achieved with a slow and steady approach.

Injuries happen, the sun rises the following day, and the obstacle becomes your path. Knowing how well you move or how well you don't, through testing and evaluations adds more resources to your toolbox as you navigate your return to performance journey.

Anthony Sgherza, ATC, CSCS, SCCC, Head of Reconditioning

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