Why Injured Athletes Fall Through the Cracks in a Group Training Model
A high school athlete came in for an evaluation this past week who had been on the shelf for about a year. Due to major setbacks, combined with potentially faulty physical therapy he still has not been able to resume any activity with the injured arm. For the better part of the past year this athlete has not done any physical preparation for fear of re-injuring his arm. For a kid who wants to get back to playing baseball as fast as possible this is a devastating situation. Absent of the injury it will take at least a few more months to get his body ready to handle to stress of throwing a baseball without risk of a new or re-injury situation. Needless to say this athletes is not at the same point of the development process as his peers and teammates. This is where customized programming and coaching plays an essential role in any athlete’s developmental process.
Over the past year this athletes and their support system around him have focused on what he can’t do, in a time where the focus needs to be on what he can do. In a group training model there is no choice but to take this approach. For those who don’t know group training is essentially where everyone in the group gets the same training program, with no element of individualization. This is common in the college setting where less than adequate staffing puts hundreds of athletes with a single coach. If you are injured and cannot partake in certain exercises you cannot train with the team. This is detrimental to that athlete because in order to safely return to playing they must continue to prepare all non-injured parts of the body.
This problem is rooted in two main causes, a lack of desire to accommodate to athletes who are injured or have special circumstances or a lack of communications between the members of a player’s support system. In the first scenario there isn’t much that can be done other than removing the ignorant party. The second however, can be prevented by creating systems that help Athletic Trainers and Physical Therapists communicate with strength coaches so that each domain can continue to provide the best care for the athlete. For example, if an athlete has an injury to an upper extremity there is no reason they cannot partake in lower body and core training activities with strength coach while continuing to rehab the injured upper body part with physical therapists and athletic trainers. Unfortunately the majority of the time they simply neglect training altogether because they know the strength coach will be unwilling, not have the time to adapt the training protocols or they will not be informed of the injury in the first place.