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Preventing Injuries

Preventing Injuries

Getting better at one’s game and injury prevention are goals of every athlete. These are also the goals of the sports medicine specialists at the Memorial Hermann IRONMAN Sports Medicine Institute. That’s why the Institute has researched and developed a screening tool to assess an athlete’s risk of non-contact sports injury. 

Screening Predicts Ability to Control Forces, Move Properly

In a five-year study by the National Collegiate Athletic Association of student athletes in 25 sports, nearly 69 percent of sports injuries occurred during practices. This finding suggests that athletes need to improve their strength, conditioning and mechanics to avoid injury.

Trevor Cottrell, Ph.D., CSCS, is director of Human Performance for the Memorial Hermann IRONMAN Sports Medicine Institute. Prior to joining Memorial Hermann, he was a professor and program coordinator of the kinesiology and health promotion degree and human performance training certificate at Sheridan College in Ontario, Canada.

“Noncontact injuries generally result from how an athlete plants the body, accelerates, decelerates and changes direction,” said Cottrell

“If the body is not under control, the soft tissue, which includes ligaments, tendons and muscles, can’t absorb the forces it encounters, so the athlete gets hurt. At the Institute, our goal is to give athletes the strength, flexibility and motor control they need to absorb these forces during high speed movements in order to avoid injury.”

While pre-participation physical exams are fundamental to sports participation for student athletes, Cottrell believes the Institute’s injury risk assessment is extremely useful for athletes of all ages and sports.

The Institute uses a variety of tests to evaluate athletes and assign them an injury risk score. Athletic teams that partner with Memorial Hermann as their healthcare provider already have access to this testing. Other athletes may undergo this assessment at any of the four IRONMAN Institutes located in the Texas Medical Center, Memorial City, The Woodlands and Sugar Land, as well as the Institute’s Shepherd Square Performance Lab and the Memorial Hermann Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation – Memorial Hermann Sports Park in Spring.

“What we’ve done with our research at Memorial Hermann is identify a variety of tests, that when combined, can better predict an athlete’s ability to control forces and move properly,” said Cottrell. “This screening involves a variety of movements that assess strength, flexibility, the ability to move into common sporting positions and body control. Once we determine an athlete’s limitations, we can target training to make improvements that will lower the risk of noncontact injury.”

Proper Movement Can Prevent Injuries

Oftentimes, athletic training focuses on getting athletes faster through explosive acceleration, rather than on core strength, deceleration, lateral movements, and landing and jumping techniques. Yet, the latter is what helps prevent injury.

Deceleration, for one, places a lot of stress on the body – as much as three to four times one’s body weight. Done properly, deceleration involves coordinating movements, such as bending at the hips, knees and ankles while maintaining one’s center of gravity. Similar principles apply to lateral shuffling, jumping and landing. That’s why practicing and perfecting the proper athletic stances and mechanics of movements is critical to generate and absorb force and, thus, prevent injury.

During Cottrell’s 24-year career in exercise science, he has witnessed countless athletes who have been unable to hold abdominal contractions, bend at the hips, perform lunges and squats, or properly shift their body weight during lateral moves.

“With two months of good coaching, we can help an athlete correct movements and get them stronger,” said Cottrell. “Then they’re in a better position to make gains in the weight room and on the field.”

Get the Edge

In addition to screening athletes for injury risk, the Institute offers a comprehensive suite of performance tests to identify optimum training levels and create a training program that enhances peak performance while reducing the risk of injury. Add individualized strength and conditioning, plus customized nutritional programs, and an athlete gains a winning formula to exercise and refuel more efficiently and compete at higher levels.

Learn more about performance testing »