The other day I was talking to a client about injuries and the rate of injuries with high school athletes. Especially when coming out of a season specifically, football and going right into another sport with little if any time for recovery and not giving their bodies enough time to heal from any injuries they might have sustained throughout the season. If the season is somehow extended by means of play-off’s, then of course that recovery time is going to be limited especially when they dive into the other sport a week or two after finishing the other. The other problem that I see, is that some coaches start the athletes with some balls to the wall program in the weight room with no evaluations, no assessments and no testing and these athletes are beat to crap by the end of the week. Remember, this is only just a couple of weeks after the last season has ended. Not only do I feel this non-productive but the complete opposite of what they should be trying achieve.
Okay, back to my original point. Off-season training is crucial in the fact that during this time the athlete must recover from what his/her body has gone through from the previous season. Now I’m not suggesting that the athlete just lay around. During this time there should be a period of active rest. What do I mean by active rest? I’ll give you an example. Some of my athletes during the off-season go right in to rugby and the problem that I have with this is that rugby is so closely tied to football that it is almost like the football season has not ended and both are probably the most physically demanding sports you can be in. So what happens? The injuries that they might have had from the football season just compounds itself during the rugby season and when rugby season ends they’re right back into football just a few weeks later. It’s almost a never-ending cycle.
With sports like baseball and basketball it’s even worse in some cases. I know in some high school baseball programs that go pretty much all year around. They may take off about 6 weeks or so after the summer programs end, but then it’s right back into tournaments. This goes right up to the starting of the season which in high school usually goes from about March until May, take off until the beginning of July then the tournament season starts back up. This might not be so bad if coaches didn’t have “win at all cost” mentality. The reality is that since the rest period is minimal, they are setting the athlete up for over-use injuries if the positions are not rotated in a timely manner, especially at the pitching and catching positions. Catchers in particular are at risk (and being an ex catcher myself I can’t believe this hasn’t been made more of an issue) for over-use because of having limited back up. Then between warm-ups (including long-toss sessions), catching bull pen, and the game itself (usually between 7 to 9 innings), the catcher is throwing somewhere around 150 balls +. Thats an incredible count considering at that age the athlete isn’t fully developed. I know some programs that only have two at the catching position with little rotation. Problems also happen when one is injured the other has to step in until the other is ready to come back. These are the same coaches that play a five game tournament and keep the same catcher in for back to back games for the tournament then go right into full throwing practice the next day without any recovery.
In conclusion, off-season training is to recover, rehabilitate, and get stronger for the following season to come. If you’re a junior or senior this is your time shine with the chance of scouts being on hand looking for talent. If that’s the case, you sure as hell don’t want to give the impression that you’ve been injured for the past couple of seasons because of lack of recovery or lack of weight room presence. If you’re going to pick a sport to play in the off-season, make sure that it’s almost the complete opposite of what is your primary sport. This is what I call an active recovery. Pick something that is less physically demanding that will, again, allow your body to fully recover. MLB and the NBA are experiencing the highest injury rates because of year round playing. Most, when the season is done might go to other countries to continue then come back the next season only to find their play is limited because of an overuse injury. Your body can only take so much before it finally says “screw you”!