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Adopting a Preventative Mindset

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By Cheryl McCormick, M.S.S. and Dr. William Stokes |

For military and elite athletes alike, an injury that restricts deployment and or sidelines a game, can be an exceedingly difficult hurdle to overcome. For both the tactical and sport athlete, for many years the traditional purpose has been best performance, completing regimented training and testing regulations to qualify and support peak physical performance. However, what strength and conditioning coaches and healthcare professionals have seen recently, is an upward trend in musculoskeletal injuries that limit military personnel from deployment as well as professional athletes from field time. This article serves the purpose to represent both the sport athlete and the tactical military personnel on the same playing field when it comes to injury and rehabilitation mindset.

According to a 2019 article from Military Medicine, (Dijksma, et al., n.d.) concluded that 15-30% of active duty soldiers were deemed medically undeployable due to musculoskeletal injuries. This loss in tactical readiness accounted for 1.3 million soldiers. The financial trend in medical costs rose from $100 million in the year of 2000, to $548 million within a seven-year window. Advances in training equipment, ergonomic and safety equipment, as well as reduction in time within austere training and performance environments have all helped ease the financial and personnel burden of injuries. However, there is one area of focus more personal that is recently being addressed to help mitigate risk of injuries. This area is a mindset surrounding injury prevention.

Both strength and conditioning coaches and healthcare professionals have begun looking into revenues to educate and address the most recent and effective research within injury prevention among athletes and soldiers, along with those within their chain of command, to support the focus on injury prevention. This mindset supplies an added arsenal to the patient or client to use when training and performing, thus resulting in effective and efficient training outcomes. Everyone trains to be stronger, faster, and to become more agile to outmaneuver the enemy or opponent, however, at what cost are the training results in increasing frequency of injury? With the addition of an injury prevention mindset, that risk decreases and the yield for best performance increases. Reducing the risk of injury via training exercises reduces both burden on the immediate team and the organization at large.

“The process of implementing both an injury preventative and rehabilitative mindset should occur during the teaching phases, working phases, and when injury and rehabilitation occurs. Within this demand, professionals should consider the importance in mindset and the many components that influence the process. This means that all individuals should adopt and employ all other factors that aid in the prevention of injury and the rehabilitation of injury. These areas include focus on sport nutrition, sport and performance specific nutrient timing, traditional rest and recovery phases (which include sleep cycle, progression and regression phases), mental and physical strain that occurs to the body, and much more!”

Barriers to adapting an injury prevention mindset are common in those with limited understanding in training safety, those with limited outcomes from earlier injury, and those with less-than-ideal support from their chain of command or coaching staff in the realm of injury prevention. Thus, this mindset transcends the individual and must optimally be adapted communally by the organization as well. Only then will the solider or athlete feel confident that their training program incorporates a focus on injury prevention, which allows the individual to train more effectively in the areas of weakness rather than result in a sidelining injury.

Given the increasing demands on and off the field of our professional athletes and those within the military working in more austere environments, the strain of losing these important individuals to injury or reoccurring injury related to improper training comes at a high cost. Therefore, it would be important to consider promoting an injury prevention mindset, which would potentially alleviate the issues that were presented in this article.

As stated, this process should employ mindset training that focuses on the well-being of individuals first, competition second, in which the training would occur during the learning phases, the working phases, and when injury and rehabilitation occurs. Additionally, teaching these individuals of the importance of self-care through mindset, can reduce the process of these individuals hiding an injury due to the fear of losing their position, as athletes and military personnel. It is also just as important to keep in mind that when many of these individuals leave their jobs and enter another profession, many of these individuals have mental and physical health complications. Implementing a prevention mindset can assist in the process to reduce these complications among those who have a lifetime of physical impact to the body, by understanding how to properly take care of oneself in their futures.

This mission will use a team effort, requiring collaboration from Coaches, Medical staff, and the organization at large, to perfect incorporation of an injury prevention mindset. Focusing each patient and client during a training exercise to perform as safely and efficiently as possible; to incorporate biomechanical, psychosocial, and energy efficient elements to reduce any inherent risk of injury. If adapted effectively, it would yield a more resilient and effective fighting force.

Reference

Dijksma I, Bekkers M, Spek B, Lucas C, Stuiver M. :Epidemiology and Financial Burden of Musculoskeletal Injuries as the Leading Health Problem in the Military. Military Medicine 2020; 185(3-4): 480–86, https://doi.org/10.1093/milmed/usz328

William Stokes is a Doctor of Physical Therapy and Board-Certified Orthopedic Clinical Specialist. He graduated in 2016 with his DPT degree and 2017 from the Nxt Gen Institute of Physical Therapy Orthopedic Residency Program. He currently practices at the Greg Ott Center for Physical Therapy in Mooresville, NC. He is a Tactical Strength and Conditioning Facilitator and serves the veteran and active-duty populations following orthopedic surgeries. He currently serves on the NSCA North Carolina State Board of Advisors, and the APTA North Carolina Chapter as an active member. He can be reached at www.gregottphysicaltherapy.com.

Cheryl McCormick, M.S.S. the owner and founder of Gravitational Performance and School of Sports Science, is also a doctoral student at the United States Sports Academy. Her former years as an athlete has guided her interests into education in sports and passion for research as a sports scientist, content developer, educator, and sport science consultant- working in sports medicine, sports nutrition, and sports psychology. Presently, she develops academic curriculum and classes that promote all these disciplines for coaches, athletes, military, and all other sport professionals to learn from. She can be reached at gravitationalperformance@gmail.com and www.gravitationalperformance.org

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