Injuries suck. There’s no other way around it. You may never become truly bulletproof, but if you understand the injury equation, you can tip the scales in your favor. Here you’ll discover the hidden costs of injury and how to effectively maintain health and body integrity.

 

The Injury Equation

Injuries often catch us off guard, appearing through seemingly random chance. Some people get injured, and others don’t, right? You could cross your fingers and hope for the best, or you could begin to truly understand the injury equation.

 

The thing is, injuries aren’t random happenstance. An injury occurs when you overload the stress capacity of a tissue. It’s essentially a junior high math inequality. Injury = Demand > Capacity. But although the equation may be simple, the cost of an injury is anything but.

 

MovNat group crawling.

Integrate crawling into your warm up routine to keep your shoulders strong and mobile.

 

The Cost of Injury

An injury can throw you for a loop when training. But derailed training in the short term is only one piece of the puzzle. Consider the competitive athlete who may have a scholarship or paycheck on the line. In these cases, the focus may be to return to sport as quickly as possible, but this rush can have unforeseen consequences. Having one injury often sets an athlete up for re-injury, as high as a 50 percent repeat incidence, according to one study in the Journal of Athletic Training .1

 

Repeat injuries aren’t the only issue. You can literally learn pain as a pattern if you aren’t careful. If you aren’t careful in handling injuries, you may lock yourself in a cycle of chronically painful movement. And it gets worse. Prospective studies show that having a joint injury in youth sets the stage for increased risk of osteoarthritis later in life.2 If your knees aren’t up to snuff now, they’re going to be really cranky in thirty years. These acute injuries you shrug off now can lead to chronic issues down the road.

 

Those are the purely physical aspects of injury. We can’t neglect the huge psychological burden. Physical injuries are associated with lower self-esteem and higher levels of depression and anxiety.3,4,5 If you identify with your physical practice (and you do to some extent, or you wouldn’t be here), then an injury can literally take you away from yourself.

 

When you’re injured, you’re not simply looking at a short-term musculoskeletal problem. You’re looking at potentially long-term dysfunction in the whole human system. So much for “No Pain, No Gain.” If you’re concerned with systems health, you need to take a smarter look at the injury equation.

 

Prehab, Don't Rehab

Western medicine has given us a wealth of information and support, but it often takes a reactive role when it comes to injury. We deal with an injury when it occurs, but we do little to prevent injury in the first place.

 

The common approach for injuries is the old RICE method standby (rest, ice, compression, and elevation). We reduce the demand. We take time off. We idle. And in some circumstances, that’s the right thing to do, but it ignores the whole “capacity” part of the equation, the preventative part. Rather than only reduce our demands, why not intelligently increase capacity?

 

How to Build Capacity

We may not like to admit it, but we’re pretty soft in our training. Most training occurs on flat surfaces with extra traction. We pick up conveniently shaped objects. It may not be easy, but it’s certainly simple. The typical training environment offers relatively little in terms of movement complexity. And complex movement may be your best bet for increased tissue capacity.

 

Rather than train solely for ideal scenarios, you also need to train for the situations you don’t want to be in. Sport and life are messy. Rarely will you find yourself in a perfect setting. And if you aren’t adequately prepared, you hurt yourself.

 

So how do you intelligently build this capacity and tip the scales in your favor? It begins with an upgrade of your current hardware, making sure that your joints and muscles are working properly. After you make sure things work nicely, you can take this living machine for a drive. Get out of the routine. Explore unfamiliar and varied movements like crawling, climbing, rolling, and roughhousing.

 

If you’re looking for a good place to start, I recommend checking out MovNat founder Erwan Le Corre’s four-week MovNat primer. The program will help you train natural human movements that improve your tissue capacity, slowly but surely tipping the injury equation in your favor.

 

Here's an example of a workout in the MovNat primer program:

 

  • Stepping Over x 4: Perform dynamically, avoid counterbalancing with the upper body. Switch sides.
  • Stepping Under x 4: Perform dynamically, avoid rounding the back. Switch sides.
  • Lateral Figure Four Sitting Reverse x 4
  • Assisted Squat x 8: Hold at the bottom and bounce softly a few times before standing up.
  • Split Squat x 4: Keep front knee stable, switch sides.
  • Deep Knee Bend x 4: Maintain a tall posture.
  • Deep Knee Bend Stances x 4: Hold stance for about 10 seconds each time.  Maintain a tall posture and stable ankles and knees.
  • Medium Kneeling to Tall Kneeling x 4
  • Deep Knee Bend to Tall Half-kneeling x 4: Switch sides.

 

Lateral Figure Four Sitting Reverse:

 

 

Train for Long-Term Health

When an injury occurs, it goes beyond a short-term musculoskeletal issue. It can become a chronic, whole-human problem. Your best bet is to prevent injuries from occurring in the first place. You can do this by increasing your capacity for stress across the whole body, exploring naturally complex and inherently human movements. You need to reclaim your natural movements if you want to remain a happy, healthy animal.

 

More Movement Practice:

 

References

1. Yang J, et al. "Epidemiology of overuse and acute injuries among competitive collegiate athletes," Journal of Athletic Training, 47(2012):198-204.

2. Gelber AC, et al. "Joint injury in young adults and risk for subsequent knee and hip osteoarthritis," Annals of Internal Medicine, 133(2000):321-328.

3. Leddy MH, et al. "Psychological consequences of athletic injury among high-level competitors," Res Q Exerc Sport, 65(1994):347-354.

4. McGowan RW, et al. "Athletic injury and self diminution," J Sports Med Phys Fitness, 34(1994):299-304.

5. Pearson L, Jones G. "Emotional effects of sports injuries: implications for physiotherapists," Physiotherapy, 78(1992) :762-770.

 

Photos courtesy of MovNat.

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