Injury prevention is one of the most controversial and highly debated topics at the moment. Many healthcare practitioners, personal trainers and everyone else in between claim they are an ‘injury prevention specialist’ or that by ‘performing these exercises’ or ‘this program’, you can prevent injury.
Why can’t you prevent injury?
Why is injury prevention so controversial? Lets put it this way. There are far too many factors that can increase or decrease your risk of injury, that it’s impossible to account for all of them.
If you’re only able to effect a minuscule percentage of contributing factors, do you really have an influence at all? Well, the research is a bit hit or miss. Mostly, current research has found ways to decrease the RISK of injury, not prevent it altogether.
What’s the alternative to ‘injury prevention’?
So, what's the real problem here? Is it the professionals that make these claims? The exercises or programs we use? The research? I reckon its the term ‘injury prevention’.
You see, there’s so much more to it. It's not about preventing injuries, because it's impossible to guarantee that. You never see someone promote exercise programs that claim “decrease your risk of breaking a bone!”, do you? Some things cant be prevented. Some injuries occur in such a way and which such force that no amount of preparation could have prevented injury from occurring.
What's the alternative? In an ideal world, we wouldn't need to promote injury prevention, or even use it as a term. If anything, the research has shown that many strength and conditioning programs had major deficits in their training programs. If you’ve heard about the Copenhagen Adductor Protocol, then you’ll know that football athletes who performed adductor exercises showed a decrease in adductor related injuries (“injury prevention”). The research may have shown a decrease in the rates of injury, but it highlighted that those player’s programs lacked a significant component in the first place.
Without the term ‘injury prevention’ what is there? PREHABILITATION, or Prehab for short. To me, prehab is not only an exercise program but a mindset. Prehab is to train with a particular focus on increasing performance and decreasing the risk of injury.
Wait, what? What’s the difference between injury prevention and the risk of injury? Injury prevention claims to prevent injury in the first place. Prehab addresses known factors that contribute to an increased risk of injury. Like I mentioned earlier: getting enough sleep, performing a well-rounded training program, nutrition, etc. As a Physiotherapist, my area of focus in on prehabilitation and rehabilitation through exercise.
How does prehabilitation decrease risk of injury?
If you are someone who suffers from injuries or conditions like chronic ankle instability, chronic low back pain or many others, then you likely suffer from symptoms periodically. Decreasing your risk of injury would aim to decrease the frequency of your injury (decrease the number of flare-ups). Your prehab program would aim to address the underlying cause of your injury and develop your capacity to tolerate more without adverse effects.
Decreasing the severity of symptoms or injuries is simple. If and when you fall, I want you to get back up as soon as possible. We know that injury prevention isn't possible. Injury, for some, is more likely to happen than not. I don't mean you’re cursed, just that you might be someone who plays contact sports, etc. If the injury is going to happen, let's make it a minor injury. Your prehab program would focus on developing efficient movement patterns and a solid foundation of strength.
The biggest factor that increases your risk of injury, is a past injury. Prehab would focus on making you resilient. Injury is a breeding ground for compensation. Whether it be joint mobility or stability or muscle imbalances, you’re likely to have developed some compensations throughout your recovery. That last thing you need is to suffer re-injury or a compensation injury. Your prehab would address compensations and imbalances that occur after injury.
Prehab is the new injury prevention
Injury prevention doesn't exist. I wish it did and I'm sure you do too. Unfortunately, it doesn't and I think that means its time to move on. Step aside injury prevention, prehab is coming through.
Prehab is training focused on optimizing your body for performance with an emphasis on decreasing your risk of injury. Not prevention, risk. Depending on what your needs are, as an individual, a weekend warrior, an elite level athlete or #EverydayAthlete, prehab has something to offer you.
Is prehab right for you?
If you’re someone that deals with chronic injuries or conditions, a prehab program should focus on decreasing the frequency of your flare-ups by determining the underlying cause of your symptoms. Your training would consist of corrective exercises that increases your capacity and tolerance.
If you’re a human than you’d probably like to minimize the impact of a potential injury. Since we can't prevent injuries from happening, best we try to decrease how severe it may be and how quickly we bounce back. A prehab program would focus on ensuring you move well and can handle stress (aka. load) so that simple day-to-day activities don't increase your risk of injury.
If you’ve suffered an injury before, it's likely to increase your risk of re-injury or sustaining a different injury. Regardless of the injury, we change how we move which means your movement patterns become less efficient and strength imbalances develop. A prehab program would address potential imbalances while helping you become the strongest most resilient version of yourself.
What does a prehab program include?
Injury prevention isn't possible. That doesn't mean you shouldn't try. Now, this doesn't mean you aimlessly go about training in the gym. Instead, you work through a specific and well-rounded program. That's prehab.
If you’re reading this then I assume you’re comfortable in the gym. You follow some sort of training program, whether it's your own or part of a group class. Regardless, developing a prehab program would grow based off what you're already doing in the gym. The difference is that it would address:
These are the factors research has shown to DECREASE your risk of injury. Not prevent it, not predict it, but decrease the likelihood of sustaining an injury.
Its time to take your training to the next level. If you’re ready for a program that will increase your performance, decrease your risk of injury and help you overcome any current aches or pains, click here to book a session.