Keeping Your Body Conditioned for Sports During a Pandemic
BY HANNAH ROPP
Student-athletes are used to dealing with adversity, but the spring 2020 season presented a particularly unique challenge when COVID-19 forced the cancellation of the entire season. This meant that many student-athletes who were used to routine conditioning and daily practice had months of downtime before ultimately resuming activity.
According to physical therapist Mike Price with Coordinated Health, part of Lehigh Valley Health Network, the threats from so much downtime are significantly higher when athletes don’t condition, which is why it’s important to return to play in a safe manner. “When I work with athletes I like to equate the season to a road trip they are excited to go on. You would never start a road trip with less gas than was needed to get to your destination. The same can be said about training,” he says.
As pandemic continues through the fall and winter, it’s possible that practices and games may continue be canceled. However, Price has some tips to help athletes get back after COVID-19 downtime:
Start slow – Ease back in under the guidance of your strength and conditioning coach or athletic trainer and slowly ramp up your activity week to week.
Vary intensity – Give your body more time to recover if you have a workout that is more difficult than what you are used to.
Short, frequent workouts vs. long workouts – Shorter workouts will allow your body to build up tissue resilience and allow physiological adaptations to take place in a safer manner.
Assess, reassess and monitor continually – The #1 predictor of future injury is prior injury. Have those areas assessed by physician, physical therapist or athletic trainer. Also, assess and reassess workload (intensity, duration and volume). Monitor post-workout soreness that does not resolve as quickly as normal.
Emphasize recovery – Ensure you are giving your body a chance to recover with appropriate hydration, nutrition and sleep. (Tip: athletes sleeping less than 8 hours a night have a 1.7 x higher chance of injury.)
Posture – Posture dictates function and dysfunction. Address these potential areas as you get back in the swing of things.