Squash, like any competitive sport, puts high demands on the body. To keep fit and injury free it is important to work hard at the right things. Before discussing how to be a more resilient athlete, I want anyone reading this to remember two important messages.
- Injury typically occurs not because of overuse but under-training . The body was inadequately prepared for the sport. If you train smart your body can handle a lot of load.
- The line between performance gains and pain can be wafer thin. If you are truly pushing limits, pain will be a part of the process. It is how smartly you deal with the inevitable that separates those who play continuously with those that end up on the sideline.
The research on squash specific injuries is limited, so I have extrapolated the research from other sports. Our current understanding of why injuries occur are as follows (ordered most to least important).
- Poor preparation for the given amount of exercise.
- Low chronic load.
- A spike in exercise.
- Inadequate skill.
- Inadequate flexibility for the demands of the sport.
What do these mean:
- The primary cause of injury is inadequate preparation for the demands of competitive sport. Limits in time can make this tough but there are ways to make it easier.
- Chronic load is the work we put in over months and years. The more consistent we are from year to year the more resilience we put in the “Body Bank.” It is important to maintain fitness and avoid long stretches away from the court.
- A spike in load typically occurs at the beginning of a season. Recreational players take the summer months off and then rush to get back in shape. This is not a smart way to return.
- Inadequate skill can put undue stress on joints and muscles. In squash poor technique can lead to increased stress at the elbow and wrist.
- Although squash requires good flexibility, its importance can vary greatly depending on body shape and body type.
Now you know why, what can you do about it?
- Monitor how much you do.
- Get stronger.
- Do some cross training.
- Improve your skill.
- Understand the demands of the sport.
- Recognize niggles early.
To explain further:
- Simply track how much you play from one week to the next. Build up gradually, don’t take long breaks, and avoid zero squash in three weeks to four in one week!
- Skip the stretch and spin bike and learn how to lift heavy weights. The verdict is still out on what rep range is most protective but my bias is lower reps, heavier weights. It takes time to be able to lift like this, but if you can learn it is worth its weight in gold.
- By cross training, in the season or offseason, you can avoid stress on hard worked areas and provide a novel and happy stimulus to the nervous system. Cross training can include fitness class, soccer, basketball, dance, or what ever challenges you and moves you in new ways. Only do a little because if you want to get better at squash that should be the focus!
- When you improve your skill you learn to leverage larger muscles in the body. This is true for both footwork and stoke technique.
- When you understand the demands of the sport you know which areas to train in the gym and on the court.
- If you pick up subtle changes in your body you can quickly adapt your routine. It will vary from pain to pain, but with time and help from a professional:) you will know when to calm and when to build . In the early stages it often needs more building:)
These recommendations are just that, recommendations. They are not prescriptive. I hope they provide the recreational squash player with new ideas on why injuries occur and what you can do about them!
Remember – train hard but train smart. For great ideas on technique and skills checkout Coach Phillip on Youtube.
Thanks for reading