Over the years of working with coaches, parents and athletes to optimize sports performance, get rid of nagging injuries or tap into the latest cognitive training, I have found that many people get stuck in inertia of training, competition and/or the latest fads before they ask themselves the simple question: “Are you training or draining?”
I define training as having clear longitudinal goals for each of the six areas of athletic development:
I then define draining as simply not having clear goals in these areas or not answering the “why” when things are going right or when they are going wrong.
Putting first things first
As a coach, I always try to get the best out of my athletes, and as a chiropractic physician, I must prioritize evidence-based systems to reduce the risk of injuries. The first thing I do is a comprehensive physical exam and Selective Functional Movement Assessment (SFMA). This evaluation process allows me to get a baseline on the current state of the athlete’s body. Research in tennis has established cutoff points for range of motion testing, manual muscle strength testing and specific orthopedic tests that allow me to identify athletes at great risk of injury. Quite often, I hear coaches trying to cue a player to make a change to their biomechanical technique that the player simply does not have the physical capacity to achieve because of limited range of motion. A simple example of this is a coach working on dissociation of hips in groundstrokes without realizing that the athlete has marked loss of mobility in their thoracic spine and hips, which could put increased load on the shoulder joints increasing their risk of shoulder injury. Knowing that the athlete has limitations and working towards correcting these issues makes coaching easier in the end.
Common things that I see as a result of the sport of tennis are:
►Shoulder mobility dysfunction
►Thoracic spine mobility dysfunction
►Hip mobility dysfunction
►Ankle mobility dysfunction
Proper warm-up and cool-down/recovery tend to alleviate a lot of these issues, along with specific programs needed when a player is identified to be at a higher risk of injury.
Icing on the cake
Once an athlete is cleared for performance testing, the fun begins in terms of human performance optimization. Science and technology have come a long way in recent years. Today, I can find weaknesses in power, asymmetries in strength, inefficiencies in the kinetic chain and even cognitive speed in a matter of minutes. This performance snapshot can be used to get marginal gains on performance by helping to pick the proper tennis shoes to improve performance, cardiovascular conditioning levels and reduce reaction time. Cognitive testing and training has been shown to cause neuroplastic changes to the brain to decrease the time your eyes and brain take to recognize and process the ball to return a serve. This means that players can train their brains to run faster resulting in high-paced match play that appears to be happening in slow motion. Having this objective data that shows brain speed needs to be improved, or that there is some physical limitation, helps paint a clearer picture of the proper training of players, and helps us answer the question “why.”
Dr. Donald Shrump Jr., MS, CSCS
Dr. Donald D. Shrump Jr., MS, CSCS is a general manager of Magnus Potential at CourtSense Tennis Training Center. Donald was a star high school and college athlete, NCAA Division 1 All-American in track and field (decathlon) and on the verge of making the US Olympic team when he experienced a career altering injury. Determined to help athletes prevent injuries, He has cultivated relationships with more than 12 NCAA D1 Sports Medicine Programs to provide and interpret player evaluations for a number of different men's and women's sports. Additionally, he was invited to evaluate the US Marine Corps at 8th & I in Washington, D.C. to help identify Marines at risk of injury and provide corrective training programs, and has also worked with the Pro Football Hall of Fame Academy and USA Baseball MLB Prospect Developing Pipeline.