Ease back into sport after lockdown


BACK IN THE SWING It’s worth taking a club into the garden and taking a few practice swings every day, to get the body reacquainted with the swing pattern and its forces.

Andrew O'Brien

Did you hear the shouting? I was woken at midnight on Sunday the 11th by a chorus of voices of all ages. Man, woman and child, they were roaring ‘Freedom!’ at the tops of their lungs as they charged across the 5km line like extras in Braveheart.
I feel a bit more like Andy Dufresne, Tim Robbins’ character in The Shawshank Redemption who crawled through the prison sewer to freedom.
It is, though, a limited freedom with a lingering sense that we could end up in solitary confinement once more, so perhaps we are more like Steve McQueen in Papillon.
To follow the line of prison breaks, do you know how a large percentage of escapees are caught? They do something stupid; like committing the same crime that got them locked up in the first place. None of us want that to happen, and there appears to be some hope that whatever vaccines have been deemed usable this week might eventually earn us a full pardon.
In the meantime, wouldn’t it be a shame if this week’s return to sport was stopped – not for everyone by the wardens of Nphet, but for you individually by injury? It’s worth learning from what happened when sport was given the green light last year, and thinking about what we can do differently this time around.
You might recall how good we all were during the first lockdown; walking and running in our two- and five-kilometre circles. People were getting fit and healthy, but once training and matches resumed, the intensity went up and so did the injury rate.
There are three groups of people to think about here: the social sportsman, the serious athlete and the golfers.  

The social sportsman
The social sportsman typically gets injured due to a lack of specific conditioning. Say you normally go to the gym, do some running and play the odd game of five-a-side or tennis. The gym isn’t open, so you’ve been doing more running; but the running you’ve been doing has probably been at a relatively slow pace and in a straight line. Football and tennis need higher speeds and direction changes, while watching a ball and thinking about your teammates or opponents.
Instead of jumping straight into several matches a week because you’re just glad to be out, consider varying your runs in advance, perhaps by adding some short, sharp sprints. Remember the direction changes too; these can come in the form of a sudden stop like you might have to make in tennis or squash, or weaving, sidestepping movements if you’re a footballer.

Serious players
Thankfully most serious players are already working on their own programmes as set out by their coaches. The problems experienced by this group last year appeared largely to do with acute fatigue. Seasons were shortened and most players had several matches wedged into a week, with training sessions in between.
I remember talking to one girl who was due to play seven matches in nine days, all off the back of a very short pre-season. This time around that is less likely to happen, given that we have no start date for matches, so there is more time to simulate match intensity in group training and there is more time for a longer season with less congestion.

The golfer
The white-collar crims of the golf club who didn’t spit their coffee out and throw this paper away in disgust at being separated from everyone else might consider the following.
Most people who go out for a walk or run do so for an hour, whereas a round of golf takes three or four hours. In that time, you’ll hit at least 60 balls (most likely a few more) with a swing that can elicit up to 90 percent of maximum muscle output. The golfers are getting special treatment because they’re special.
Try doing some longer walks to be ready for the return. It’s worth taking a club into the garden and taking a few practice swings each day as well, to get the body reacquainted with the swing pattern and its forces.
For now, we are all in the exercise yard, the petty thieves, the hardened criminals and the white-collar crew. With good behaviour and a bit of luck, we might just be free soon. If not, I’m going to make a raft of coconuts and paddle to Cuba!

Andrew O’Brien is a chartered physiotherapist and the owner of Wannarun Physiotherapy and Running Clinic at Westport Leisure Park. He can be contacted on 083 1593200 or at www.wannarun.ie.