Welcome to the latest instalment of our CONSORTIUM CHARTERED PHYSIOTHERAPISTS educational blog. This article is guest written by one of our colleagues Chris John. He is a very talented physio who we feel has a very promising future ahead of him.
Hello! Let me introduce myself...
I'm Chris John, a senior MSK physiotherapist working within the NHS and also in the sporting setting with Hull City AFC Academy. In the past I have worked with Hull Kingston Rovers, Yorkshire Carnegie Academy, Northampton Saints Community and Dewsbury Rams so it’s fair to say I have an interest in keeping elite sportspeople injury free! My passion lies in exercise led therapy, this has motivated me to write this.... my first ever blog! This blog will highlight the importance of using an evidence based approach to understanding load management as an injured patient or simply as someone that exercises/trains. It should provide you with a basic understanding of how to monitor your loads as well as the actual importance of monitoring loads in order to make you fitter and stronger! Reading this will also guide you through the process of recovering from injuries and more importantly reduce your risk of getting injured in the first place!
So...... what does load actually mean?
LOAD is an umbrella term that in this case refers to the stresses (training or competition) that you subject yourself to during exercise... this can include all types of exercise and their intensities and volumes...
As a general rule of thumb... if you take on more load than you are capable of handling then you are more likely to get injured. However... if you do the opposite and take on less load than you are capable of you will end up doing the same, as this will only result in deconditioning, leaving you in a position where again you are more likely to get injured!
So... ideally you need to find the happy medium. You need enough load to get you fitter and stronger but… not too much as to risk injury. Conversely… do too little and you run the risk of getting injured when you do compete! This fine balance is not necessarily guess work as many people often resort to! Instead…I suggest you use a science based approach and learn about the multiple factors that influence load and try to sensibly control as many of them as you can. These factors are often completely individual to you. The main advantage to controlling them is to
- Reduce the likelihood of you ending up injured!
- Get fitter, stronger, faster and more efficient whilst avoiding injury set backs
- Prevent injuries re occurring
So… does load actually relate to injury then?
YES….of course! As a physiotherapist that is relatively new in my senior position, I have quickly realised that we cannot eradicate all possibilities of anyone getting injured. However..... decreasing your risk of injury is absolutely achievable!
So with this in mind... I want to educate you on the factors that are out there that both increase or decrease your risk of injury?
FACTORS THAT INFLUENCE YOUR LOAD & INJURY RISK
Risk factors obviously make you more susceptible to injury. These can be intrinsic or extrinsic (source).
An intrinsic risk factor can be biological or physiological (Brukner 2012) source. This means it is often personal to you, some internal factors you can control e.g. how much training you choose to do, how hard you go and how long you go for. Other factors can include the type of training you choose to do and in what environmental conditions you choose to train in. Some internal factors are still personal to you while you cannot control them e.g. your age, weight, medical history and previous history of injuries. None of these factors are dictated to you.
An extrinsic risk factor is defined as something you CANNOT BE IN CONTROL OF. Extrinsic factors may for that reason increase your chance of injury Brukner 2012 (source).
For example.... if you perform at a high level then how you train or how hard you go may be dictated to you by a coach. You also have very minimal control over the loads that you subject yourself to during competition. During competition you will also have no choice over the environment you often compete in e.g. the type of surface you are, the weather conditions or even the instructions given to you dictating how you should compete by a coach/manager.
So in order to try to stay injury free you ideally need to be as sensible as possible when it comes to the things WITHIN your control. This can often include modifying your training appropriately in order to make sure it sensibly suits you. Alongside this you need to ensure that you only subject yourself to external factors (i.e. competition) if you are fit enough or adequately prepared for them in the first place.
Is there a link between internal and external factors?
Yes…. there is a very important link! This needs careful consideration. For example.....if you are a novice runner that ends up heading out on a training run with another runner that is more conditioned than you then the external loads you are subject too will be exactly the same for both of you e.g. you both run 10k at the same pace and in the same conditions. However the internal loads accumulated will be far higher for the previously injured, older and more novice runner. This leaves him in a position where he is far more likely to get injured.
All the factors mentioned previously will also have an important influence on how you will potentially recover from injury and whether you will successful return to competing.
What are the effects of loading?
The optimal amount of load is described as an 'envelope of function' by Scott Dye (Dye, 2005) source. This optimal amount of load is the capacity in which a person can safely load and maintain BENEFICIAL tissue homeostasis. If you underload or overload you create DETRIMENTAL homeostatic changes and are therefore more likely to cause an injury. This is demonstrated clearly in the diagram below....(John 2017)