For all your wrestlers, the road to state is upon you. Based on your performance at League Finals, you are now preparing to move on to divisionals or the Masters tournament. If you have been training hard, pushing yourself on the mat, cutting weight, and everything in between to make yourself better, chances are you have encountered some bumps and bruises. You got banged up a bit and have a nagging injury or a tweaked something or other. Here are some of my favorite ways to prevent injury and mend the bumps and bruises before I go from just being hurt, to being injured.
I should not even have to say this, but you as an athlete must know the difference between being hurt and being injured. If you are working hard to make it to the state tournament, you should know by now that you will have to compete while being hurt and banged up. It is part of the sport. I am not a doctor and am not trying to be one on the internet. If you have a legitimate injury that needs professional medical attention, do as the professionals say. These following tips are things that have worked for me in the past when I was HURT, not injured, and have a decent amount of evidence supporting them.
- LISTEN TO YOUR BODY.
Now that is out of the way, let me start off by saying that staying injury free is 90% of the time easily preventable as long as you listen to your body. Sure, freak accidents happen, but you know when something is bugging you, a little achy, or tight, and you keep pushing it. Sure enough, something rips, tears, dislocates, or breaks. Listen to your body and monitor your training accordingly. At the start of each day, shake things out to see where you are at. Know your limitations for the day, do the adequate mobility work to look for improvement in the joint or muscle. If you are still banged up by practice time, let your partner know and work around it.
My junior year of wrestling I had competed in a tournament about two weeks out from league finals. At that tournament, I tweaked my shoulder pretty good and had a hard time reaching overhead, basing up, or getting sprawled on. I should have listened to my body, and taken it easy on the moves, techniques, exercises, that caused pain in that shoulder, as well as let my training partner know to watch out for that shoulder. However, I did not. What resulted was me still trying to go hard in the paint for a week, and having a small hurt shoulder turn into an injured one. This all happened in the two weeks leading up to league finals and the day before the tournament I had to pull out. Do not go so hard in the paint, that the paint dries up.
Listen to your body. Communicate with your training partners and coaches. Do the adequate work to try to mend whatever is banged up. This leads me into the second tip.
2. DO YOUR MOBILITY WORK.
Mobility is more than just stretching. Mobility is means to help you be flexible through motion and all of it’s ranges. For example, reaching down and touching your toes does not do much in regards to helping your squat. You are simply stretching your tight hamstrings, not improving their ability to move and be flexible through motion. However, foam rolling the hamstrings and glutes is very beneficial to helping your squat mobility. Loosened up hamstrings help you not round your lumbar spine in the bottom of the whole and achieve a better depth.
This can be included in pre and post practice recovery work. You go to school, work, etc. go train and at the sound of that last whistle or bell, you pack up your stuff and go home to sit for several hours, letting your fatigued muscles grow tight. At the end of practice try foam rolling your T-spine (your back), try smashing your anterior deltoid (outer chest and front of shoulder) with a baseball or lacrosse ball, or find a wall to open up those hip flexors. Doing just a few minutes of mobility before practice can help you warm up and have better muscle contractions and agility, while post practice can kick start your recovery and prevent muscles from becoming stiff or sore after training.
Dr. Kelly Starrett has some of the most informational and popular mobility videos on the internet. His book, “Becoming a Supple Leopard” is full of techniques and methods of mobility for essentially everybody part. You can buy his book on Amazon here, and check out his extensive YouTube channel, here.
So you have been listening to your body at practice. Not pushing the limits of a particular joint that is feeling a bit achy. You told your training partner to watch out for this joint, cause it’s a little banged up (I know I say that a lot of will continue to say “banged up”). You do your mobility work both before practice, and during the cool down afterwards. Still after all this, you still have that nagging tweak. Something that I have used for almost every injury for years of lifting weights and wrestling, is heat. Whether it be a heating pad, sauna, steam room, hot shower, doesn’t matter. Heat helps promote blood flow. Blood and the fluids of the lymphatic system are what is largely responsible for healing and mending of injuries through bringing nutrients to the injured area.
Referring back to my shoulder injury my junior year, after the season had ended and still no luck on my shoulder getting better, I at first looked into how icing periodically throughout the day could help heal my shoulder. I came across a video that Dr. Starrett posted on his YouTube channel where he breaks down why we having the whole idea about icing wrong. You can watch it here. Icing freezes (pun intended) the joints and repeated use can cause the muscles to grow stiff. This is why during the peak of winter time you do not feel as loose at the start of practice until your hoodie is drenched in sweat, and the wrestling room has turned into a sauna.
Movement through range of motion is one of the best ways to heal the muscles around a joint, or the joint itself and an easy way to do that pain free is to heat up the area first. What I did in high school, and even still to this day is take a hot shower and slowly work my banged up joint through ranges of motion. I would do arm circles both directions, scarecrows, scapular retraction exercises, etc. If I did not have time to take a shower and dry off again, I would place a heating pad on the area of pain for about 10-15 minutes. Sure enough, after a couple weeks of doing this process two or three times a day, my shoulder was good as new. No ice needed.
I might do an article that goes more in depth about mobility and the use of heat therapy for healing minor injuries. There is a lot of science and research that supports these three tips, and from personal experience, all three have worked for me. Hope these three tips help you keep wrestling all the way through to the state tournament.