Updated: Oct 13, 2022
Being sidelined with an injury can be devastating for young athletes, or any athletes for that matter. I always tell my athletes, being the most athletic player on the team doesn't matter if you're stuck on the bench with an injury. So, it is important to prepare young athletes for the demands of their sport and do everything in our power to help them avoid, and be resilient to injury.
When we look at injuries, they generally fall into 2 main categories:
Contact injuries are hard to avoid. Of course we can train the body to be more resilient through strength training, but at the end of the day if your foot is planted in the ground at the same time someone crashes into your knee, something is going to give, and unfortunately there is little we can do to avoid those types of injuries. Don't get me wrong, having a solid foundation of strength in your muscles, ligaments, and tendons goes a long way in helping in situations where contact happens. But in terms of training to avoid injuries I think the best place to focus our energy is on non-contact injuries.
Non-contact injuries are 100% preventable, unlike contact injuries. And the way you train goes a long way in helping you prevent non-contact injuries. Most non-contact injuries happen during the deceleration phase of movement. So that is where we will focus our energy in this article. Deceleration is the act of slowing down in order to stop or change direction. How many times can we think of an athlete we have seen plant their foot into the ground to change direction and drop like a bag of potatoes only to be grabbing their knee in agony from what we later find out is a torn ACL. It is tragic, and to be honest the numbers haven't been significantly improving over recent years to prevent these kinds of injuries.
I think a lot of that has to do with athletes focusing so much energy on building strength and getting faster without focusing enough energy on how to properly decelerate in order to stop and change direction safely. Now don't hear what I'm not saying; strength and speed training are both extremely important but owning a ferrari with no brakes is only good for posting pictures on instagram with your car parked in the driveway to see how many likes you can get. It's only for show, not performance.
Now I don't think it would serve you well for me to go down the road of explaining all the science and training progressions associated with deceleration so for the purpose of this post I want to share some helpful steps with exercises that I like so you can practically begin incorporating effective deceleration training into your routine.
Stage 1: Build a base!
The first stage is all about joint and body angles with a focused deceleration pattern. You have to master these angles and become proficient so your body will recognize these patterns when it gets into game situations. Proper joint and body angles are key to avoiding future injury. Here are a couple basic drills:
Single Leg Drops
Single Leg 180/0 Degree Drops
Stage 2: Challenging your base patterns
Now that you have a base it is important to start challenging your patterns in a controllable and effective way. By adding high knees and rapid eccentric forces you create a higher demand on your muscles, tendons and ligaments while still working in a space where you can focus on proper mechanics and help your body respond to this higher demand safely.
High Knee Single Leg Drops
High Knee Single Leg 180/0 Degree Drops
Stage 3: Increase the demands
To create an even higher stimulation we incorporate band exercises to create an even greater force into your deceleration pattern. This is essential for getting you ready for the game like demands you will face. If you have not mastered the stages 1 with proper joint and body angles and then added controlled stress in stage 2 then you ARE NOT ready for stage 3. You must master those first.
Banded High Knee Single Leg Drops
Banded High Knee 180/0 Degree Single Leg Drops
The great thing about these drills is that not only are they effective but they can be done almost anywhere. Please understand that this is a process and movement is a skill that takes time to develop and master. Don't think just because you spent 5-minutes on the beginner phase you are ready to move on. This takes time and repetitions. Truthfully there are many drills you can use at each stage to make sure the body is experiencing the proper demands in order to gain the proper adaptation. These are just a few drill to get you started and help you understand the process and the importance of deceleration.
As always, if you need help taking your athleticism to the next level while also helping to prevent injury and stay healthy, don't hesitate to reach out to us. Our interactive online coaching program has proven to help athletes improve speed, strength, and confidence, while also preventing injury. We would love to help you too! Contact us by clicking the "contact us" button in the menu above or below.
Also, here's a FREEBIE. Here are my Top 5 Tips When Preparing for Game Day. Click the image below to check it out!
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