On October 14, 2014 m1jjb00 presented a statistical analysis examining the relative incidence of football injuries: "Comparing injuries across the Big Ten". According to his calculations, Michigan had the second highest rate of injuries among fourteen teams. Since I have 24 years of professional experience in the health and fitness field (also worked as an addiction counselor), I thought it was time to speak up. I put together a diary titled, "Reason for so many injuries".
In summary it said: When a human being trains to get bigger and stronger, in the process their neuro-muscular system, the kinetic chain, becomes tighter and less flexible. For optimum athletic performance, training must include various compensating modalities to regain and increase freedom of movement, such as stretching, yoga, myofascial release, massage, etc. The various types of resistance training (i.e. weights, cables, elastic bands, body weight, etc.) must be taken into consideration.
Multi-planar activity incorporating twisting movements (Transverse Plane) develop coordination and support joint stabilization. Flexibility, mobility, agility are central components of a complete, integrative training program. These areas are often undervalued or neglected, not only in gyms around the world, but even in the most sophisticated professional environments.
Some people's comments noted that I did not make an airtight case to support the conclusion which I reached. I agree that's a legitimate question. However, athletic training is a complex, evolving field. When you study practices such as Olympic training, body building, power lifting, martial arts and yoga, just to name a few, you find tremendous diversity in methods people use to improve physical performance. There's a lot of disagreement, even among top professionals in the upper echelon of sports science. This is far from a mature, exact science. So then, was "Reason for so many injuries" an overstatement?
No, it is not.
The time is way overdue for someone to speak up for the well being of these young athletes, who put their health on the line for our football team. The University of Michigan is a world leader in many areas; I expect nothing less from our strength and conditioning program. John Bacon recently reported that NFL scouts find U of M football players lacking in key parameters of physical conditioning. When you take a look at the work of people like Paul Chek, Kelly Starrett, Gray Cook, Naudi Aguilar and Shannon Turley, you see we lag behind.
Making a convincing case that details the deficiencies of our current training regimen, and mapping out a comprehensive program that would help prevent injuries and improve athletic performance is not really practical in the parameters of a football blog. In this context, I can only summarize and indicate directions where we can move forward.
So moving forward, I propose we begin a conversation which will consider some of the methods our football team can use to improve their athletic performance. Of course, this applies to all sports in general, and your own personal health and fitness as well. Please note: I'm not a statistician. I study this field intensively, including human performance in general, work with amateurs and professionals, and speak from personal experience. I would like to invite you to contribute any information you think is relevant, or personal experience you feel is interesting. I'm not expecting to avoid controversy, but prefer to engage it in a respectful, courteous way.
Let's begin by considering a comment from Blueinsconsin. He noted there's "incompetence at the top of the program", and made a really good, if somewhat unlikely suggestion, that we "steal Shannon Turley from Stanford". Bluesnu provided this informative link to an article about Turley: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/31/sports/ncaafootball/stanfords-distinc…
Shannon Turley at Stanford is one of the tops in his field. Some of his innovations are now being practiced at all levels, even well received by the NFL. He employs dynamic, multi-planar methods of training, and utilizes a functional movement metric (that is, he monitors and tests for flexibility and range of motion) to gauge the progress of his players.
I've seen many indications that such progressive training methods are lacking with our football S&C training. They may well be being employed for other sports at the University of Michigan. I'm curious about that, and welcome any information on this subject.
In a conversation with Bluesnu, we discussed the relative merits of Hypertrophy training (getting bigger) versus training for Power (generating force with speed). I presented this analogy: "Would you rather have a 300 lb lineman who is carrying all sorts of dysfunctional, neuro-muscular internal restrictions, lumbering around like a water buffalo? Or would it be better to have a 285 lb lineman who has been trained to move and "deliver a blow" (quote from Greg Mattison) with the speed and agility of Chuck Norris?"
Now of course bigger and stronger is necessary. But take a look at this video which demonstrates combined functional and martial arts training. Then you decide if these methods would make our football players more athletically powerful, efficient, and less susceptible to injury.
If the topic of health, fitness, and S&C training generates an interesting dialogue without too much kneejerk negativity, we might continue this conversation further.