The boat...there it goes again.


A little while back I posted a little shortie entitled “Injured? Take a Break!” The message behind this post was simply for endurance athletes to step out of their “comfort zone” and make wise…ahem, *common sense…choices when suffering from an injury.

Please consider this current post its sequel.

Often we, as clinicians, frown upon the volume of training some coaches espouse upon their athletes, criticizing the high mileage their athletes spend on the road and in the pool.

Our argument? “They are fatigued, they need to rest and recover.” The coaches’ argument? “I’ve sent many athletes to world championships and this is how we’ve always done it.

Both may perhaps be valid points. Perhaps. So where is the disconnect?

Is high volume training really that bad?

Without question, high volume training may increase the severity of musculoskeletal injuries sustained (Brooks et al, 2008), especially in contact sports where the variables that influence the risk factors of injury are greater than that of non-contact sports. And absolutely, ultra and extreme endurance training regimens may result in acquired training intolerances of which high volume training may lead to unwanted skeletal muscle pathologies in those with such intolerances (Grobler et al., 2004). But in an appropriately individualized and periodized program for a given athlete, I really cannot place 100% blame on high volume training as the cause of injury for non-contact sports.

So let’s shift our focus just a little bit here. Where could we place some of the blame?


The blame game.


I recently listened to a podcast interview between Mike Robertson and Tim Vagen where they discussed this very topic. You are more than welcome to listen to this podcast here. I think Tim and I share similar sentiments in that perhaps some of this blame should be placed on the complementary training, or more specifically the lack thereof, that such athletes perform. Specifically when it pertains to addressing muscle imbalances.

You see, in 2010 we are working with athletes who live in a different generation. A generation that includes facebook, drive-thrus and escalators. And a generation where perhaps not everyone in western society are fit to wear vibrams, let alone run a marathon in them.

But let’s get back to muscle imbalances. Very often I use the analogy of a car with a slight alignment issue (I’m sure many of you do as well). Driving from home to work on any given day will not likely result in a malfunction or breakdown. But driving across the country?

I hope you get my point.

The problem I see quite often is in the lack of complementary training non-contact athletes perform. Swimmers and runners alike, these athletes (and often their coaches) seem to be pre-occupied with getting their mileage in.

My knee hurts but I need to run 12 miles tomorrow“, or

My elbow hurts halfway through training and I know I need to come see you but coach won’t let me miss practice”

Do you see what I’m getting at?

I am all for adhering to one’s training regimen and by no means do I have the right to question the amount of volume a specific coach programs into their…well…program. In fact, this IS their program and who am I to question it. But, the point I am trying to convey is that we must complement this training with the addition of exercise means that address those imbalances that may present themselves as a result of the lifestyle that we live. Especially in novice, intermediate, recreational, and student athletes. We simply cannot apply programs meant for professionals in such populations. This just opens up the possibility for “repetitive strain” injuries.

So if you consider yourself a non-contact athlete, be it a runner, a swimmer or the like, and are either self coached or coached by a professional, then I encourage you to take the time to start employing complementary strategies to your program. Even if it does mean cutting your training short.

And if you are a coach, trainer or rehab professional looking for a program for your athlete that encourages and devotes time to such strategies, then may I kindly suggest that you look into those programs put forth by ironguides and core performance. Your athlete will thank you for it!


8 Responses to “Repetitive strain” injuries in non-contact sports: The blame game

  1. Jeff,

    Three gold stars for this one. The attitude of the competitive endurance athlete is just as you described. Many will seek out manual therapies, but they expect that to be good enough and “don’t have the juice” for movement work and the like. I believe we’re starting to see this come around at least at the highest levels of sport, though.

    Carson Boddicker

  2. jcubos says:

    Thanks Carson.

    I agree, at the highest levels this doesn’t seem to be as much of a problem.

    But still in some school settings as well as in Masters and open competitions where we still have many athletes who work or study full time, this becomes even more important.

    See you in a few weeks!

  3. Kevin Neeld says:

    Great post Jeff. As you know, I don’t work with a ton of endurance athletes, but this mentality is present in our team sport athletes as well. The emphasis always seems to be on “more sport” or even “more training” and the necessity of soft-tissue work or spending time refining patterns often goes overlooked. As Carson mentioned, I think some of this is starting to change at the higher levels. Hopefully it trickles down!


    Kevin Neeld

  4. Jeff,
    Great stuff. I have a Q. IronGuides looks like a marketing site. They talk about the “it” of training. But, I missed where they gave their approach? Great seeing everyone finally “get” muscle imbalances. Pr Janda would be proud.


  5. jcubos says:

    Kevin. I agree and think the same principles can be applied to most if not all sports.

    I especially enjoy working with hockey coaches who take the time to include restorative work in their weekly schedules.

  6. jcubos says:

    Thanks Craig.

    Ironguides is simply a coaching company that subscribes to the “injury prevention” and “training efficiently” way of thinking. I have purchased their programs in the past (for running and triathlon training) and like how they have an interactive forum for athletes to communicate with coaches. They also have a chiro from Vancouver who acts as their sport medicine resource and for these reasons, I will often recommend their online coaching (along with that of core performance) to some of my patients.

    As for their programs, they prefer to utilize the approach of progressively increasing short but high intense intervals as well as self-monitoring of fatigue as opposed to just “knocking off the mileage” that many other programs employ for novice and intermediate athletes.

  7. AVittese says:

    Excellent post Jeff! Been following the site since we hung out at SMFA 2 in Portland.
    It would be awesome if our repetitive strain “deskworker athletes” our “3x/week improper gym workout” athletes and our “(fill-in-the-blank) with repetitive ADL” atheletes could grasp and apply this concept!!!! I know they may not be considered “endurance athletes”, but physiology is physiology and repetitive strain is repetitive strain.
    Happy New Year!

  8. Ken Zelez says:

    Awesome post Jeff. The article mainly touched on endurance athletes. I would like to believe that non-contact sports such as volleyball, baseball and track & field are included. I would also like to go so far as including non-collision sports such as soccer and basketball. Am I correct? I just see so many year-round single sport athletes who never really take a break from their sport.

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