The Foundation: Reduce Risk & Focus on the Core

The core is the foundation of where everything originates in reference to the body and the mechanics. Maintaining a strong core is not only important in preventing injuries later in life, but can be critical to performance as well. Anyone involved in middle school or high school athletics or higher knows the importance of the “core” and athletes must focus on it in order to ensure they are able to compete in whatever sport they so choose. However, many of those strengthening the core do not understand the musculature involved. Many believe it is mainly the abdominals and while that wouldn’t be inaccurate, many workouts fall short of properly strengthening the entire musculature that makes up the core. The core is comprised of not only the abdominals but also the gluteals(maximus, medius, minimus), mid to lower back muscles, and other hip musculature. When designing a strength training program, an all encompassing workout is essential in ensuring your body is able to handle the stresses your season is going to place on it. One way to measure your risk of injury, especially when it pertains to flexibility and stability of the core, is through the Functional Movement Screen(FMS).

Now the FMS is not the “one and only” test to guarantee that you or your child will not suffer an injury in whatever sport they may partake. Also, I am not the foremost expert of the FMS, but I have used the screening tool with my athletes in the past and have given presentations on FMS and how it relates to the overhead athlete(i.e. baseball, volleyball, etc.). I also continue to use it in occupational medicine with the workplace athletes. It is a widely utilize tool in the sports performance field as well, specifically by those who focus on injury prevention. The FMS is based on a 21-point scale examining core flexibility, stability and symmetry. What your score yields will indicate your relative risk of injury. It starts with addressing areas that present pain, then asymmetries, and then weaknesses. For example, adolescent athletes, specifically those age 10-13yrs are an excellent population to use this screen as many are going through physical maturation and those core muscles don’t always keep pace with their various growth spurts. When this screen is done properly, we can identify areas of risk for an athlete and then address accordingly. When this screen is done at the high school level and across whole teams, we can notice trends and adjust workouts to focus on specific muscles groups such as ankle strengthening or hamstring flexibility.

Let’s Get Specific:

Woodchops – Stand with the side of your foot facing the cable. Face the cable by twisting only at the hips and grab the handle. Initiate movement by twisting the upper half of your body so the navel moves from facing the cable to facing opposite of it. The twisting motion is controlled by the internal and external obliques, or the muscles that lie along the side of your abs. This movement is observed in several sports whether a baseball player is swinging a bat at a pitch or a soccer player is changing direction quickly. Incorporating the woodchop into an athlete’s program can help them improve their ability to rotate their hips powerfully.

Plank – Get into a prone position on the floor, supporting your weight on your toes and your forearms. Your arms are bent and directly below the shoulder. Keep your body straight at all times by engaging your core. In order to engage, or brace, the core you want to think about using the abdominal and lower back muscles at the same time. When the abdominal muscles are used, the body curls forward. When the lower back muscles are engaged, the body extends backwards. Now when both are engaged, the trunk becomes rigid. This state is known as abdominal bracing and is important to protect the spine when an athlete makes contact with another athlete such an football player tackling another player.

BOSU Ball Balance – Using a BOSU ball with the bubble side on the ground, stand on the center of the flat platform with one leg. Engage the core throughout the entire duration on the BOSU ball as the platform is kept steady. It is natural for the platform to rock side to side as this is caused from uneven distribution of weight on BOSU ball. Press down on the platform evenly with the foot standing on it. The corrections made while off-balanced simulate a player making a play while not having both feet underneath him or her. Often, basketball players trying to make a play at the hoop are in this particular scenario.

 

Strengthening the core and ensuring your workout focuses on the key elements for your respective sport is essential to achieving your potential on the court or in the field. When we use risk assessment tools, like the FMS, we can better understand our weaknesses and make improving them our focus in our workouts. This allows for our exercise programs to be precise and effective in developing our body to the demands placed on it. When we work with someone who utilizes these tools alongside their workout programs, we set ourselves up for reducing our injury risk, which ultimately sets us up for success.

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