Mechanical Pathologies: Overuse Injuries and Cardiovascular Fitness

p3 sport science

From shin splints to quadriceps tendinopathy, athletes and weekend warriors alike often experience overuse injuries. As common as they are, few see the complete picture and thus fail to correct them with anything other than downtime-Something athletes or anyone trying to maintain their level of fitness cannot afford.

Athletes engaging in sports or activity involving any component of conditioning or cardiovascular fitness are even more susceptible. This is often because their cardiovascular endurance allows them to push themselves past the point of which they're using proper biomechanics and synchronizing appropriate force generation-absorption demands, leading to excessive stress on their musculoskeletal system. Even simple jogging is a series of force absorption and creation over a period of time. Yes, it’s not just high impact moves like vertical jumps that qualify as involving force. This is just smaller with more volume-death by a thousand paper cuts if your mechanics are off.

Over time, particularly in combination with poor progression, recovery and programming, this will quickly expedite the process towards a seat on the bench.

Of course, there are other factors, such as a lack of neural coordination from the get-go because of stress from some input (something you can measure with HRV, DC Potential-Omegawave biomarkers), but let’s keep the discussion conditioning-focused.

I’ve seen many coaches push athletes past the point of good mechanics in order to build the target energy system, as well as many a weekend warrior on a jog slogging through the pain with goofy mechanics. While there are times to push the envelope to target game situations, forge resilience, and train at a supramaximal intensity, this shouldn’t be the regular plan. In fact, most training should be cut at the point where identifiable form breakdown occurs, via eye test and/or metrics.

This is why so many endurance athletes have incredibly unhealthy structural/postural and neural adaptations embedded in their movement patterns.

p3 sport science

Otherwise, you may be forcing a compensation pattern adaptation into your movement via your nervous system. We’ve covered neural adaptations before, but here’s the basic idea:

You get better at what you practice, and if you practice bad mechanics, guess what? You will adapt to bad mechanics. Practice doesn't make perfect-it makes permanent.

The nervous system doesn't distinguish good or bad form and will adapt to any movement that is repeated whether it is desirable or not. This can be innocent when it comes to skill work movement strategies-e.g. some basketball players’ success with goofy free-throw form (what up Joakim Noah?). However it also means it's important to not train through injuries or goofy mechanics. Good for survival is not good for performance.

Oftentimes, my work with an athlete involves using the neubie (and possibly the Halo Sport headset) to rewire the nervous system and correct movement strategies back to ones more optimal for performance and injury prevention.

Here with the proper training and by changing movement patterns at the input level with the NeuFit device, we are reengineering this football player’s movement patterns.

All that said, your best bet is to avoid the issue in the first place, whether you’re a pro athlete or a weekend warrior. Take an honest look at your training, watch film of your walking, running - whatever you’re curious about - and try to identify mechanical pathologies.

Movement as Medicine.

Matt Cooper