Sunday, April 17, 2011

A New Attitude

As an athletic trainer and strength and conditioning coach, my role is to prevent injuries and enhance performance through the improvement of overall and sport-specific athleticism. Since I started my career in the strength and conditioning realm, my tendency is to attack injury prevention and reconditioning from a performance training philosophy. As I entered the athletic training field, I found myself approaching performance enhancement through functional / injury prevention strategies.

I’m old enough that my education seemed to be set against the backdrop of the “old school” tough love approach and the transition into the “new school” evidence-based approach to training / reconditioning. So, I understand when players make comments like, “My goal is to stay out of the training room this year.” Or, when coaches chide a player for being on the treatment table or in the whirlpool tub, I can relate to the coaching philosophy. But, at the same time, I can understand the big picture of the sport-specific dynamics and my role in the sports performance team.

Baseball is primarily a repetitive stress and overuse injury type sport. An athlete who avoids the training room because of pressure or the belief that if he reports a complaint, then the athletic trainer will keep him off the field is backward. The opposite is routinely true. When a player waits to report an injury that began as a nagging little discomfort and has progressed to a more significant pain that hinders or affects his performance on the field, it’s too late. By then, the athletic trainer or medical professional often has no other recourse than to “shut down” the player from activity to allow for rest, healing, and recovery. When in reality, early communication and assessment between the athlete and the athletic trainer could more than likely allowed for continued sports participation while at the same time addressing the physical needs of the injury.

We need a new attitude.

When I meet with my teams and newly arriving players, I feel that it is important to stress my underlying philosophy that the athletic training room should be viewed as an extension of the weight room and ultimately, the field. As I mentioned, my role is to help players stay on the field and perform at their optimal level. When the sports medicine team has a strong understanding of the sport-specific needs of the athlete from an injury prevention and performance standpoint, programs can be adjusted and fine-tuned through specific techniques in the training room. Therefore, the athlete can get the most out of their performance training and this training can hopefully provide greater carryover on the field.

What about “The Training Room Rat”?

Besides the athlete who needs encouragement to approach the medical team and communicate small issues before they become large, there is the other end of the spectrum that consists of the player who is constantly requesting and needing attention. The role of the athletic trainer in this case is to provide education and initial guidance to allow the player to transition to the weight room and become an active participant in his performance training programs.

David Yeager, ATC, CSCS

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