The Injury Prevention Myth

Injury prevention is a myth.

No amount of exercises, mobility drills, or stretching will ever be enough to PREVENT injury. Sometimes injuries just happen, especially the longer you participate in sport. A football player is tackled awkwardly at the knee, a skier catches an edge and tumbles 200+ ft down a steep slope, and you roll your ankle stepping off a curb in the grocery store parking lot. Again, no amount of training could possibly help prevent such injuries, they are just a part of life. Does that mean you should just give up? Of course not! Injury doesn’t loom behind every corner waiting to strike.

So if you can’t prevent injury, what can you do? There is a significant amount of research showing that strength, coordination, mobility, neuromuscular control, balance, and training habits can REDUCE the RISK of injury. YES, I know it feels like I’m splitting hairs here between “prevention” and “risk reduction”, but there is a huge difference in connotation and the mentality associated with those words.

Prevention: sounds like you’ve done some sort of “preventative” exercise or training and you are now impervious to injury. This completely disregards the context from which injury can occur. It doesn’t account for external factors or dynamic environments that are beyond your control. Just because a runner does some “preventative” work doesn’t mean that they can jump from 20 miles per week to 60 miles per week without possible consequence.

Injury Reduction: there is an inherent admission that there is still a risk of injury, but that we are working proactively to build our bodies and tissues to be resilient against them. Intelligent training and progression are also integral to the injury risk reduction equation.

Barring a blunt trauma, fall, or impact of some kind, the majority of injuries are a “tissue issue”. All tissues (joints, bones, muscles, tendons) have a capacity to perform work. When the stress or load placed upon that tissue exceeds its current capacity, injury occurs. Treatment of these injuries is done by modifying the stress or load, increasing the tissues’ capacity for work through strength training, or in most cases BOTH!

The human body is capable of amazing feats of adaptation. Given the right stimulus and appropriate time, the human body can adapt to almost any number of stresses or demands placed upon it. Just look at the differences between an elite marathon runner and a World’s Strongest Man competitor. One body is capable of running 26.2 miles in just over 2 hours, and the other body is capable of pulling a jumbo jet or deadlifting 1,000 lbs. It’s not like they were born running or deadlifting. Their bodies have adapted over decades of consistent training to allow them to push the boundaries of human capability.

Remember that while injuries may happen, there is a lot that you can do to proactively decrease the chances of it. By exposing your tissues and nervous system to varied stimulus through strength, coordination, mobility, balance, and proprioception activities, your body will adapt over time to become more robust and resilient against injury.