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Working in High Performace Sport

By Chris Beckmans

With the AFL football season having come to an end, I reflect back on my year with the GWS Giants. I got involved with the club across the 2017 season as I was fortunate enough to be the successful applicant of the FastTrack Programme for the Physiotherapy department. 
There were many ups and downs across the year: from the last-minute wins, to consecutive weekly draws, to just falling short of making the grand-final; to say it was a roller coaster is an understatement. However the wealth of knowledge I gained from this year is something that will be hard to come by again, and it is the insight into the elite sporting environment that I want to share. 
Injury prevention is the key:
Ever heard the saying: “Prevention is better than cure”? Well, It’s true! Injury prevention is one of the most important aspects of rehabilitation and is often overlooked. In a team sport, having every athlete injury free and available for selection is key to a successful season. “Prehab” is the term given to prescribed exercises, movements or activities designed to address issues that an athlete possesses. These issues may include: imbalances in strength, coordination, tightness of muscle groups or activation of muscles. A sports physiotherapist has the ability to assess these weaknesses and prescribe prehab exercises. Ideally these exercises are performed before the commencement of training and are aimed at preventing injuries before they happen. 

Importance of end-stage rehabilitation:
Rehabilitation after injury is important to restore optimal form and function designed to minimize the loss associated with the acute injury and maximize functional capacity, fitness and performance. Too often players return to play too quickly risking themselves to the possibility of re-injury. End-stage rehab is where the tissue adapts, and it is essential that the rehabilitation and training be sufficiently vigorous to prepare the tissue for the rigours of the game. 

Importance of training load:
Sport science has come a long way over the last decade, with the relationship between training load, injury and performance becoming critical for sport science practitioners. Training load, put simply, is the measurement of how much work an athlete does. This can be total distance running, total sprinting distance, weight lifting and a number of sprints or jumps (just to name a few). The reason monitoring training load is so important is because excessive and rapid increases in training loads, can increase the athletes risk of non-contact, soft tissue injuries (ie. strains).

Importance of recovery:
Rest and recovery are important aspects of any training program that are at times overlooked. The stress that the body goes through when sports training, requires adequate time to recuperate. The body requires time to adapt to the stress that has been placed upon it, replenish energy stores and repair tissue.  Many athletes look at the recovery period as time wasted, however, if the body is not allowed to rest adequately then it becomes susceptible to both over-training and injury. Elements of a successful recovery include but not limited to: adequate sleep, hydration, nutrition, flexibility, massage and ice baths.  

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