Posts tagged sports performance
Previous History of Hamstring Injury Associated With Reduced Sprint Performance

Hamstring injuries are one of the most common injuries in both individual and team sports. In sports such as soccer and football these injuries involve a traumatic pull of the muscle while sprinting or accelerating. After the initial healing phase athletes must rehabilitate the injury with Physical Therapy exercises to regain optimal muscle function and reduce their risk for future injury. Hamstring injuries often become recurrent if strength is not normalized along the hip, knee, and ankle muscles along the back of the leg. A new article highlights how these injuries also limit performance in sprinting trials.


Roksund and colleagues studied professional soccer players and collected data on previous hamstring injuries, as well as, each athlete’s strength, flexibility, aerobic capacity, and sprint performance (Front Physiol. 2017). Of the 75 athletes included in the study, 16% sustained a hamstring strain over the previous 2 years. The previously injured athletes demonstrated a significant loss of velocity during a 40 meter sprint test, as well as, a drop in performance over repeated sprints compared to their healthy peers. Interestingly, measures of flexibility, strength, aerobic capacity, and maximum power was not significantly different between groups. Injured athletes are encouraged to work with their local Physical Therapist to accelerate their recovery from muscle strains and eventual return to sport.

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Will Cold Water Immersion or an Ice Bath help my recovery?

When I first started seeing athletes in the early 2000s we often placed athletes in cold baths in an attempt to both reduce post workout soreness and facilitate recovery.  Since this time we have moved toward more active recovery strategies including aerobic exercise, corrective exercise, static stretching, and foam rolling.  A new study examined the impact of cold water immersion on an athlete's recovery.

Anderson and colleagues placed athletes through 45 minutes of intermittent run training and then provided one of three 12 minute recovery methods: 14 degree C, 5 degree C, or a seated control group (J Strength Conditioning Research, 2018).  The athletes were assessed immediately after exercise over a 3 day period.  Peak power output measured on a cycle ergometer was improved in the 5 degree vs. 14 degree or control group 24 hours after exercise.  Conversely, both the control and 5 degree were more effective than the 14 degree C immersion at 48 and 72 hours.  Mean power output on the cycle ergometer was higher in the control vs. either cold water immersion group.  No changes were noted in either lactate or creatine kinase levels.  The authors concluded repeated bouts of exercise are initially impaired following cold water immersion and the treatments should not be used for acute recovery.  Athletes are encourage to choose more active recovery methods (cool down) as well as adequate nutrition, hydration, and sleep. 

No penguins were injured in the writing of this post

Comparing Muscle Forces During Lower Quarter Strength Training Exercises

Strength training is an essential part of an individual's weekly exercise program.  It's numerous benefits include reduced injury risk, increased sports performance, and improved function in life activities.  Time is finite resource and a commonly cited barrier to exercise.  In our Boulder Physical Therapy practice we strive to prescribe the most effective and efficient exercises for each client to maximize time spent exercising.  A recent research article adds insight into which lower body exercises are most effective at recruiting muscles in the core and legs. 

Schellenberg and colleagues studied the muscular responses of 11 healthy participants as they performed a deadlift, good morning, and split squat exercise (BMC Sports Science, Medicine and Rehabilitation. 2017).  The authors found the split squat was most effective at targeting the gluteus maximus muscle in the front leg, but the deadlifts were found to effective at recruiting this muscle over a larger range of motion at both the knee and the hip.  As expected, good mornings recruited the posterior chain muscles including the hamstring more statically than the dynamic deadlift exercise.  Surprisingly, the quadriceps were recruited best in the back leg during the split squat, but the highest quadricep load was found in the deadlift.  Overall, this study highlights the differences between lower body exercises and reinforces the effectiveness of the deadlift for overall lower body muscle recruitment over a large range of motion.

To learn more about maximizing your strength training program contact your local Physical Therapist. 

Q and A with Boulder Professional Triathlete Nicole Valentine
PHOTO CREDIT: Alan Torres @ATV Photography

PHOTO CREDIT: Alan Torres @ATV Photography

1. Can you tell us a little bit about what got you into triathlon?

I grew up as a swimmer and then switched to cross country running in high school and college. At the time, I had friends who were doing triathlons and always thought that if I could get my hands on a bike, it would be fun to try one. While living abroad in Costa Rica after college, I finally bought my first bike – a mountain bike and did my first triathlon there after a few years of endurance mountain bike racing. It was an absolute blast and I ended up placing first female by a decisive margin. I was hooked.

2. Were you competitive in other sports?

Yes, I grew up playing every sport possible – soft ball, soccer, field hockey, lacrosse, swimming.

3. What are some of your career highlights in endurance sports?

In 2015, my last year as an age group athlete, I came in 5th at the Ironman World Championship in Kona and 3rd at the Xterra World Championship in Maui two weeks later. I won the Outrigger Double Award for the second year in a row for the fastest combined time at Ironman and Xterra World Championships. What was particularly memorable about this accomplishment is that I actually fell and crashed on the mountain bike midway through the Xterra race and broke my collarbone. Determined to finish the race if I could, and defend my title, I got back on the bike. I finished the technical mountain bike course and then was able to overtake some of my competitors on the run to place third. Standing on the podium with a sling on my arm was my proudest moment to date in endurance sports, as I knew I had given it everything in that race.

4. What brought you to Boulder for training?

In 2015 I had my sights set on trying to obtain a pro card in Xterra off-road triathlons. I had heard about what a great place Boulder was for training due to the altitude, ample roads, trails, and mountains for running and biking, as well as sports injury specialists and support facilities like MEND, and of course, the number of elite athletes and training groups. I convinced the firm I worked for to let me work remotely, and came out to Boulder for eight months to try the lifestyle.

5. Tell us a little bit about your training philosophy, especially in relation to staying healthy and injury free.

I’m finding that the training itself is just one slice of the pie and in order to support the elite athlete lifestyle and heavy training, you need to put as much emphasis on nutrition, recovery, and injury prevention, otherwise the training cannot happen.

6. What's your favorite recovery food?

Sweet potatoes and Healthy Skoop protein powder. I eat sweet potatoes pre workout, during training for fueling, and for post workout recovery – I love them! I’ve been switching over to a vegan diet and have found that Healthy Skoop plant based protein powder has been amazing for ensuring I’m getting enough protein in and I love the taste.

boulder-triathlete-lovato performance-nicole valentine

PHOTO CREDIT: Alan Torres @ATV Photography

7. How important are the small things, like stretching, weight-lifting?

I’m finding this year that all of the small things – sleep, nutrition, recovery, stretching, pre workout muscle activation, strength training, massage, PT, etc. make the difference between just getting the workouts in (and constantly battling oncoming injuries), and nailing every training session consistently and making huge fitness gains as a result.

8. What role does Physical Therapy play in your training?

Physical Therapy is a critical piece of the recovery puzzle. Whenever I feel that my body is taking a hit from the intense training load, I know that I need to get PT work done in order to keep training going and prevent a full blown injury from happening.

9. How many workouts a week are you doing?

On average, I have 2-3 workouts a day and about 16 workouts a week. It’s a very high training load.

10. If you could be successful at any other sport, what would it be and why?

I think I might be good at Ultra running. I’d love to give it a try! I know so many amazing runners in Boulder and am so inspired by the mileage they put in!

11. What's the hardest decision you've ever made?

Leaving a successful career in marketing for a financial services firm on the east coast to turn professional as a triathlete and move to Boulder. It has been a bumpy and incredibly difficult transition, but I am happy to be pursuing my dream. I know that this is what I’m meant to do.

12. Who makes you laugh more than anyone?

My coach, Michael Lovato. He has a great sense of humor which is so appreciated when we are jumping in the pool at 5:45am for swim practice. I wouldn’t be able to endure such a tough lifestyle without his great coaching support and the camaraderie of my Lovato Performance teammates.

13. What are some of your competitive goals for 2017 and 2018?

This year, my goal has been to place on the podium in Ironman races and so far I’ve been quite lucky to do so with 6th place at Ironman 70.3 Puerto Rico and 5th place at Ironman 70.3 Peru. I’m finding that nailing the nutrition, injury prevention, and recovery is making the difference. I hope to keep climbing the podium steps in the pro field!

IF I Lift Weights Slower Will I Improve My Muscle Size?

It seems there is not much eccentric exercises cannot do between healing injured tissue, improving mobility and strength, and now possibly contributing to muscle size.  We have long known muscles gain the majority of their strength after training because of the eccentric or lowering portion of any lift.  Athletes who skip or speed through this portion of the lift do not benefit as much from the same exercise as those who focus equally on the lift and lowering of the exercise.  New research compared the long term effects of strengthening either with a short or long duration eccentric or lowering phase.

A group of researchers put a group of participants, familiar with resistance training, through 2 workouts a week for 12 weeks (Pereira et al. Int J Applied Exercise Phys. 2016).  The participants were placed in either a slow group, who performed a 4 second lowering phase, or a fast group, who performed a one second lowering phase of an upper body exercise.  The exercise was performed for 3 sets of 8 repetitions to failure using either the slow or fast lowering phase, but every participant took 1 second to raise the weight.  The researchers then measured strength, muscle size, and body composition (fat and fat free mass) at the end of the 12 weeks.  As expected the slow group developed more strength than the fast group, but they also showed twice as much hypertrophy. This is the first study to report a relationship between eccentric loading and muscle growth.   


The Health Benefits of Sprinting versus Long Distance Running

Running is one of the most popular sports in Boulder, Colorado with many individuals taking advantage of our many trail options.  In general, run workouts can focus on short duration, higher intensity sprints performed as intervals or longer duration, sustained low to moderate intensity distance runs.  Each training option promotes beneficial changes in the body but new research highlights the benefits of sprint training in aging runners.

Previous research has focused on the benefits of long and slow distance running, but less attention has been paid to sprint training.  In a recent review article Krzysztof and colleagues discuss the beneficial adaptions of sprint training especially among aging runners (Exercise and Sport Science Reviews 2015).  In comparison to endurance athletes, sprint athletes have a slower rate of decline in maximum heart rate, one of the main factors in calculating VO2 max or the maximal amount of oxygen the body can utilize each minute.  Thus sprint athletes show a smaller decline in VO2 max over time compared to their endurance training peers.

Sprint athletes train at higher intensities requiring faster, more explosive muscle contractions.  These contractions promote muscle hypertrophy in sprinters compared to their endurance training peers.  Thus it is not surprising sprint athletes have a slower decline in lean muscle mass due to aging compared to endurance athletes.  In addition, sprint athletes demonstrate better performance on power, agility, and jumping tasks compared to their endurance trained peers.  One final benefit of sprint training is exercise adherence.  Sprint athletes have better adherence to their exercise programs likely secondary to their workouts being less time consuming and more efficient than longer, slower endurance programs.  

Runners are encouraged to consider implementing sprint or interval workouts into their existing endurance programs to further improve their health and performance.