December 11, 2007

Don't Rest your Body - Heal your Body!

The true OFF days of volleyball are disappearing. With the time period between the end of the high school season and the start of club season vanishing like the rain forests, and college volleyball's tendency to maximize every minute of NCAA allowed interaction, it can be hard to gain a few weeks to be OFF as a player.

With this off time, whether it be for a couple of weeks as a high school player or 1 month as a college athlete, it is import to be active - Active in Healing your body.

The longer we play high level volleyball, the more pounding our bodies take. Many non-volleyball people have no idea how hard it is to maximum jump continuously over the course of a season - the physical impact that our ankles, knees and back take is amazing. Then, toss in the never ending swings of attacking and serving over 3 months and our shoulders can join the rest of our body in pain

One of the things that I have learned the hard way as a coach, is to not only provide non-activity days, but to make sure my players are using this time to mend their bodies. Too many players mistake not hurting for being better. They are still hurt, just not processing the pain.

Athletes, by training, are conditioned to play with discomfort and with pain. As a former national caliber player, I just got used to my knees aching, my shoulder hurting on each swing, my back being stiff, etc. We become so good at mentally managing the pain levels, that when we are able to step away from playing/training for a week, our bodies feel much better.

Unfortunately, our bodies are not better. There is a difference between sore and pain, but it is a finite difference. Basically, if you have ANYTHING that is not right with you, then you should be proactive in getting it right. This means communicating with your trainer or parents to seek out the proper healing methods. With college level volleyball, one would hope that the team trainer would follow-up with players about season physical issues, but that is a rare occurrence.

Depending on your situation, being proactive in your healing could be nothing more than icing a sore area, or engaging in some light muscle building exercises, or doing some shoulder Theraband work. Players can use this down time to build up their impact absorbing muscles to help support those structural areas that are hurting. Many times the sore knees, shoulders and backs are joint inflammation/pain, but it is the muscles surrounding the joints that must be strengthened to make the injury heal.

If you are experiencing a sharp pain or played through a severe pain that never really abated during the season, then you should be seeking out an orthopedic surgeon/sports medicine doctor - not trainer, not therapist, not anything but a doctor that specializes in sports related injuries. I cringe when I interact with high school families that say their daughter went to their long time doctor - the family doctor may be a great doctor, but he/she is not an orthopedic-sports doctor.

College players have an easier avenue to gain rehabilitation and sport medicine evaluations, but they must communicate these concerns with their trainer and also with their coach. Having a player who starts the spring season off by complaining about physical problems, will drive a coach bonkers when that same player did nothing over the Holiday break to make themselves better.

I know your body feels better after taking some time off, but it is not better. Part of the responsibility of being a scholarship college athlete, or attempting to become one, is to maintain a high level of physical ability and that comes by maintaining your body. As harsh as this sounds, as an athlete, our bodies are a machine - we have to take care of the machine.

Turning off the car, does not fix the engine, it needs to go into a mechanic. Just like you need to go see the trainer/doctor if your machine is not perfect.

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