Biomechanics is a $50 word to describe how you move. Our genetics and environment contribute to forming our movement patterns. By adulthood, we see the results of a few decades of this. It has become evident that many injuries we sustain in our later years are the result of decades of repetitive improper movement patterns. While some injuries are obviously caused by accidents, many are the result of repeated stress caused by “bad form.”
As I was fitting an 8-year-old boy for arch support inserts — he was suffering from foot and leg pain and cramping because his alignment was quite off — I wondered how this young athlete could go through so many medical screenings and coaching without detection of such a simple problem, with a simple fix.
Remember learning proper biomechanics back in gym class? Of course you don’t, because it wasn’t taught to you. Teachers don’t have time to work on proper mechanics and lifting technique on each individual student while in the middle of a wicked round of competitive duck-duck-goose. Unless you were a jock, I bet you received very little training on “good form.” Then again, would you have listened?
Average people get screwed on biomechanics. Only the jocks get a little bit of attention and coaching on movement technique. This spreads the gap even further. By the time we become adults, non-jocks shy away from fitness because they were told that they were not coordinated and will never be athletic. Jocks, however, keep psychotically beating themselves into the ground playing sports trying to prove that they can still do it.
Then we are told to add strength training to the mix. The endless “Couch to 5K” and other insane pseudo-fitness-sport programs that our culture seems to embrace put a lot of stress on deconditioned bodies. So not only are you moving wrong, you are adding weight and intensity to the problem. This creates the perfect storm of injury potential.
We trainer-geeks know that the best athletes have the best biomechanics, by training and a little genetic and environmental luck. This reduces their susceptibility to injury, which allows them to get more experience, which allows them to get better, which allows them to avoid injury. Coaches give extra help and play time to kids who have natural ability. Kids who don’t have natural ability get benched. You get the idea.
As you know, we tend to carry unresolved physical and emotional childhood issues into adulthood. This includes our movement patterns.
So do something about it…
According to Wikipedia, preventive health care (or preventive medicine) consists of measures taken for disease prevention, as opposed to disease treatment. Just as health encompasses a variety of physical and mental states, so do disease and disability, which are affected by environmental factors, genetic predisposition, disease agents and lifestyle choices. Health, disease and disability are dynamic processes that begin before individuals realize they are affected.
Mechanical problems can most often be fixed or reduced enough to drastically improve quality of life. Nobody “out-grows” an alignment problem. The last I heard, you have to work hard to make changes, not ignore the problem.
The Fix? As always, prevention.
Get yourself, and more importantly get your kid, to a good orthopedic doctor, physical therapist, chiropractor or athletic trainer for a quick biomechanics evaluation before you get jacked up with an injury. Do this even if your kid has no chance of getting an athletic scholarship. Along with regular physicals and basic annual screenings you would benefit from teaching yourself and your kids how to move efficiently, thus avoiding about half of your chances of sustaining an injury that requires surgery.
Steve Wells is an athletic trainer and the owner of Midland Fitness.