Simple but often overlooked thoughts. Key points to ponder when coaching injured athletes.
A. "Know your jurisdiction." Often, I see undereducated or under experienced coaches overstep their boundaries. Whether you're trying to diagnose injury or perform manual therapy; acknowledge your limitations and understand that your strengths, areas of expertise and legal zones of practice still have limitations. Remove your ego or fear from certain situations that may leave you feeling unknowledgeable. If you haven't been certified in a particular trade then maybe it's best to keep your hands off and mouth shut. I have been fortunate enough to have almost forty hours of certification course work with Structural Elements and Sport Activation over my eight year career. I will be the first to tell you that I am still an expert novice (yes, pun intended) at best. Play it smart and safe. Weigh the importance of your ego against your athlete's health. Refer out to people with an expertise in recovery or rehabilitation. Let these professionals initiate the recovery process and establish an appropriate protocol. From there, use what you know while seeking to further educate.
B. "Communicate consistently." We always hear the line, "If you don't ask you'll never know." How can you be sure of where your athlete's progress is at in their recovery process if you fail to ask? Communicate with your PT's, physios, and doctors as much as necessary. That was a foreign concept to me as a college athlete. When I met Brad Arnett of NX Level I realized that we could operate in a professional world in which athletic trainers, physical therapists and team doctors could not only get along, but more importantly learn from each other. How will it hurt to ask, "Where do you recommend we begin?" Dialogue with your athletes can simply start by posing the question "How does that feel?" (Mike Boyle). Realize, your athletes health relies on your humility, effort, and willingness to be informed!
C. "Patient progressions yield long term returns." Hopefully, we all understand the kinetic chain and tensegrity. Whatever issue we encounter at a local site will have a global affect. While addressing local and global issues or dysfunctions, focus on what you CAN do. I find it really important to set goals on existing strengths as you work on injury protocol targets purposefully and yet still patiently. Throughout this process, give due credit to mobility, stability, and unilateral strength. These performance qualities are often neglected. Follow your rudimentary progressions here so that once you resume full go activity your athlete already has the foundation to move ahead. Educate your athletes on the value of mechanical efficiency as a path to power development. You will soon find your athletes affection for cat-camels, deadbugs, diaphragmatic breath, and maybe even ankle mobility. Place as much value here as you did on your flying 10's and hang cleans when the athlete was healthy.
D. "Happy Environment Attractors." The athletes who recover the fastest are usually the ones who put a premium on positive thought. Your enthusiasm and outlook as a coach will only elevate their mental performance and expedite improvement. Look back at your life and you may find that some of the best relationships you built blossomed from the moments of greatest adversity. Always remember that psychology bleeds into the physiology and vice versa. Utilize positive imagery and have FUN. Humor is often our best medicine. Furthermore, I believe the one missing piece from many injury rehabilitation protocols is competition. Put the athlete back into a safe and competitive environment as much as possible. This may include shooting hoops from a chair or competing on upper body lifts!
Case Study: Special shout out to TJ Bray for guest starring in this blog as a wounded (but still deadly) #speedassassin !!! TJ, who is recovering from a meniscus tear, is shown performing a banded single leg lower, prone bent knee hip extensions, and a 6 breathe "t" isometric hold !!! Exercises that nearly every athlete/person could perform almost anywhere! TJ has done a remarkable job of focusing on what he can control physically and mentally. If you asked him, I think he would also note that he hasn't isolated himself emotionally or mentally either.
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