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.

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It’s OK To Take A Break

Tired AthleteThanksgiving is coming at the perfect time. For one of our older groups its the fourth week of a training cycle; typically an unloading week where we back off and allow the mind and body to catch up and adapt to the hard work we’ve done. Because of the holiday we have one day in the gym this week  and the kids have a technical session on the turf. That’s it… perfect!

Along with a change in routine we want the athletes – especially the younger ones – to understand why we back off and  begin to think in terms of stress and recovery. We want them to learn to follow that oscillating wave of intense challenge and deep rest and regeneration, to pay attention to it and work with it, not to try to overcome it.

Kristen Diffenbach, Ph.D. said in an article for Podium Sports Journal ” If you can’t recover from the training you do and you don’t have an environment set up that allows that to happen you’re not going to get stronger no matter how much work you do.”

Creating awareness and opening up new thinking are part of creating that kind of environment. So, along with lightening the load this week we also talked about recovery, why we’re doing this and how they can optimize it so that their bodies adapt to the work they have done. That’s why it was so encouraging after our last session  to see this in one of the player’s journals. ” Its ok to take a break.” IMG_0871

We live in an outcome driven society where ” big data ” allows us to measure and rank and compare constantly. We have to keep moving and producing so taking a break is often seen as weakness or at the very least just falling behind. It’s not. It’s an essential part of the balance that’s required for both health and performance.

So Thanksgiving is here. Time for all of us to pause, rest, reflect and take a break. Sleep late, eat well, enjoy time together  and alone. The holiday is coming at the perfect time.  “It’s okay to take a break.”