It is generally accepted that dynamic warm-ups and “functional” movements are, at the very least, better for athletic performance than traditional warm ups and stretching. As a coach who puts a lot of time into preventing injury, my interest is in knowing whether or not these movements prevent injury.
A study was done by the Santa Monica Orthopaedic and Sports Medicine Research Foundation to test whether sport-specific warm ups could lower the risk of ACL injury in teenage soccer players. For two years, nearly three thousand players were divided into two groups. One group continued with their typical warm up protocol, serving as the control group. The other group completed “strengthening, plyometrics, and sports-specific agility drills” in place of their typical warm up. This was repeated in back to back seasons over the course of two years.
In the first season, the players who completed the sports-specific drills had an 88% decrease in ACL injuries relative to the control group. In the second year results were almost nearly as promising with the decrease in injury being 74%.
While this is great news for soccer players, the implications for triathletes and road runners is not as direct. First of all, ACL injuries in soccer players are generally acute, whereas injuries in road runners typically come from long-term overuse. Then why spend time looking at the study? Sadly there is little research on triathlon since its popularity as a sport is relatively new. Those of us responsible for keeping triathletes healthy are forced to follow tangential research lines and draw our own conclusions.
My conclusion for this study is that we as triathletes need to follow a robust training program, similar to those soccer players who used strength work, plyos, and agility drills. Though strength and plyo work do not make us faster, the short-term step backward may lead to two steps forward in terms of the ability to train harder with a healthier body.
Source: Effectiveness of a neuromuscular and proprioceptive training program in preventing anterior cruciate ligament injuries in female athletes. Am J Sports Me. 2005 Jul; 33(7): 1003-10.
Despite the complete lack of activity on this blog, Coach Scott Beesley has actually been nose deep in research and writing the past few months. His new home of Nevada City is a very small city with a small triathlon community. As such, there are not as many triathlon coaching opportunities in Nevada County as there were in the Midwest. As such, he has filled time with lots and lots of reading. This is the first of what hopes to be many research summaries.