The mind of an athlete has a peculiar brand of irrational rationalization. A friend of mine, Dr. Tim Maggs describes a very typical conversation between a doctor and patient. In this conversation the patient explains to Dr. Maggs that they have an injury. However, they believe they shouldn't, because they don't have time for an injury. A runner, for example needs to continue logging 90 miles per week, because he has a huge race in just 3 weeks.
This is a very common conversation and it usually involves the injured athlete expressing their frustration with the fact that they didn't have a specific event that caused this injury. These types of injuries are generally related to repetitive stress and are often referred to as "overuse" injuries. The injured party commonly struggles with understanding why their problem took place and hopes for a quick fix.
According to Dr. Maggs, "Regardless of what we want, the laws of physiology and stress will always dictate our outcomes." Increasing the strength of a tissue can be referred to as increasing the tolerance of the tissue. Whether it is bone, muscle, tendon, ligament or any other tissue in the body, tissue tolerance refers to how much stress that tissue can handle before it tears or breaks. The goal of a healthy lifestyle is to keep every cell, organ and tissue in your body as healthy as possible. This will allow you to be ready when the various stresses of life present themselves. When the tolerance level of a given tissue is exceeded, an injury will occur. Muscles may tear, bones may break, discs will bulge or rupture and ligaments will stretch and tear. No matter what tissue is injured, the bottom line is that the tolerance level of that tissue was exceeded.
It is unfortunate that as a society we find it desirable to believe that if there is no pain present, there is no problem. It may not be understood why the hamstring tore today and not yesterday, but that doesn't always mean that you did something today that you didn't do yesterday. Maybe today the tissue was simply fatigued past its tolerance level due to biomechanical imbalance and repetitive stress. Unfortunately, not enough doctors out there are familiar with biomechanics and the biomechanical imbalances that are precursors to these stresses. As a result, minimal efforts have been made to raise awareness about sports biomechanics and proactive measures that can be taken to increase tissue tolerance. The purpose of this column is to promote sports biomechanics awareness so that you can spend more time on the field for many more years to come.