Control obsession and ego to avoid repetitive strain injuries
Way back in the early ’90s, I was a student athletic trainer for the men’s hockey team at my college. I got a lot of experience dealing with nasty injuries.
There was nothing as serious as today’s injuries like “gamer’s thumb,” but it was often a struggle to keep athletes on the ice. I started to notice that many of these athletes couldn’t recover from their injuries during the season no matter what we did. The older, more experienced trainers knew about “repetitive strain injuries” and tried to explain the concept to me.
Repetitive strain injuries (RSIs) are typical musculoskeletal injuries that are caused by repetitive tasks, forceful exertions, vibrations, mechanical compression or sustained and/or awkward positions. I would also add insufficient recovery time as a factor. Does this describe your entire day? The sick difference is that you get paid to put yourself into awkward and painful positions at work. When you do it for sport is how it becomes an issue for a different type of therapist.
I can’t help but notice this phenomenon, having worked on thousands of people over the years. Nowadays, I work with a few pretty serious athletes and a lot of average people in whom I see a lot of RSI. I wonder how much of all injuries are our own doing? It is easy to chalk everything up to “accidents” because this conveniently waives the responsibility for the cause.
A study from The Journal Of Sports Medicine, which analyzed injuries among athletes on 16 teams reported by athletic trainers at the University of Iowa over three years, found that “more than a quarter of all injuries involved overuse, and women’s sports actually had a higher rate of overuse problems than those caused by acute injuries.”
I see the same behavior in adults — experienced, high-functioning, intelligent adults who get caught up in behavioral patterns that often lead to RSI.
The same pattern that enslaves us as adults I suspect we develop as children — because I watch it daily. It starts with the insane scholastic sports rat-race and goes on into adulthood. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a recovering ex-jock who had to become normal due to repetitive injuries. I couldn’t hang with the schedule. Some people can and others can’t.
This is why I tell clients to allow their body’s recovery rate to dictate the training schedule and not what they read in “Photoshop Magazine.” (By Photoshop Magazine I’m poking fun at all the phony fitness magazines because they all use Photoshop to make their models easy on the eyes so you are more inclined to buy more “muscle-pills.”)
The experiences and life lessons that I have gained from decades of sports are priceless. I do regret the damage that I have done to my body to fulfill scholarship obligations and for hopes of becoming a pro athlete. All that I am trying to express is that we may want to think a little before creating patterns in our kids that make them limp around in their 40s.
How to avoid RSI?
Don’t specialize. Pursue different sports and workouts. Remember that the best athletes were almost as good at just about every sport they tried. If you are truly an athlete, the type of sport you choose shouldn’t matter as much as the fact that you are doing something athletic. Obsessing over one particular sport or activity that keeps injuring you is just that. Pros have a full-time staff to help them through their one-sport obsession — and you expect to get through the day with a little pretty-colored stretchy tape on your knee?
Rest (the valley’s worst four-letter word). Take a break. Realize the extent of your own abilities and be OK with that. Also realize the best thing you can do for getting better at anything is to get enough sleep and allow yourself to fully recover.
Take the seasonal break from sports and workouts as an opportunity to try new things. Remember that your own comfort zone may be the reason for a discomforting RSI.
Don’t push kids too hard into repetitive “elite super-team sports” without keeping a careful and objective eye on their state of health. Earning a sports scholarship is special because not everyone can do it. Don’t use your kid to make up for your own athletic failures. Just let it go, let it go.
OK, I’ll stop.
Control obsession and ego. I am not professionally qualified to even mention these two words, but I believe that they are often the true root of the problem. Exploring a little sports psychology will help you understand yourself better and usually leads to a more balanced approach to training, sports and even RSI.
Disclaimer: The author, co-owner of Midland Fitness in Glenwood Springs, does not self-Photoshop, obviously. He does however, use a 10-year-old head-shot to get a similar effect.
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