Sleep and Nutrition are Effective Tools to Reduce Injury

When we think of reducing injuries we often think of pre-hab routines, ACL prevention programs or things like stretching and foam rollers. Done correctly,consistently and  with qualified coaching those things have been proven to be helpful in reducing the likelihood of injury.  But two recent studies point in another direction, to things we can do outside the gym or workout that appear to have at least as great an impact on brining injury rates down.

A study published in the  Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports followed 340 students at elite level sports high schools in Sweden over a school year. The athletes came from a variety of sports. During the second semester the researchers found that athletes who reported sleeping at least eight hours per night during the first semester were 61 percent less likely to report and injury ( a physical complaint that produced pain, reduced their performance or caused them to miss training) during the second semester.

61 percent is a big number but, a  study at Harvard-Westlake high school in California found a similar relationship between sleep and injury. Student athletes who slept fewer than eight hours a night were almost 70 percent more likely to get injured.   

The Swedish study also found that student athletes who reported eating the recommended amounts of fruits, vegetables and fish were 64 percent less likely to report an injury.

We talk with athletes we coach about the stress and recovery cycle; about matching the hard work of training or competition with the things we need to adapt and grow. We ask, “ What do you need to put in the recovery bucket to help you play well, stay healthy and get the most out of your sport?” Sleep and nutrition are always near the top of the list. The next step of course is to change behaviors.

This doesn’t mean that eating your vegetables and going to bed will make you bullet proof. But, combined with a good training program those things appear to have a significant impact on keeping you healthy.

If you would like to find out more about the research you can follow the links or check out this article by Alex Hutchinson in Outside Magazine.

You can also check out the research by Cheri Mah with collegiate athletes at Stanford University.

Resources for Good Nutrition

“You are what you eat.”   

It’s discouraging to watch a young athlete go through a tough training session and then hear them talking about a trip to a fast food restaurant on their way out of the gym. Feels like two steps forward and almost as many back.

jamie+anderson+slopestyleOne group of athletes that’s done particularly well at the Sochi Olympics are the United States skiers and snowboarders. Part of the reason for that is that they have one of the best approaches to Long Term Athletic Development around. They’ve looked at everything from physical training to mental skills to character development. Its an approach that most other sports can learn a lot from.  It’s about developing potential by working with the whole person.

The link below is to a video  from their Park City, Utah training center to a group of young athletes. It lays out a what I think is a very helpful and practical approach to good nutrition. They make it clear that good nutrition is not about supplements and meal plans. Instead it’s about learning to make good choices. In this short presentation they offer some simple examples and guidelines that make it easy to get started.


There are several downloadable pdf’s as well that give simple diagrams for planning your plate. Just check under the Athletes Eating Guidelines as ” Athletes Plates ” .  As they say in the video, ” Good nutrition is not going to be the reason you win but, poor nutrition will hold you back.” Small steps in the right direction open up the possibility for big gains down the line. It’s that 1% solution. These resources are a good place to start.