Are Technique And Injury Related?

technique related to injuryYou might have recently found yourself in an: injured –> rest –> rehab –> return to sport –> injured, cycle lately and wondered – what am I doing wrong?

Have you considered if your technique and injury are related?

There’s nothing more frustrating than finding yourself re-injured after a long stint of rehabilitation. Though regardless of whether you’ve been injured before or not, looking into the biomechanics of how you’re moving could be incredibly useful to help manage and rehabilitate your injury.

What is biomechanics?

assess biomechanicsBiomechanics is the application of mechanical principles to living organisms (humans, animals, cells etc). Simply put, it’s the study of how you move – bio (living) mechanics (mechanics). Biomechanics incorporates principles of physics to objectively describe movement which can provide you with a wealth of information – for example how much force or torque that is experienced at particular joints. 

Furthermore, biomechanics can be a useful tool when assessing injuries to help determine what might be contributing to your injury.

Whether technique (or, your biomechanics) causes injury is a debatable topic among physiotherapists, sports scientists and other allied health professionals. Biomechanics assessments for running for example, have historically been conducted with the aim to improve running economy, decrease asymmetry and as a result, decrease someone’s risk of injury. Again, this has been the case in many other sports with the view of: optimising an athlete’s biomechanics and the player will perform better and have a decreased risk of injuring themselves. However, over time the research has shown that we can’t predict running related injuries through biomechanics alone. 

Still, does this mean that looking at your technique is irrelevant – absolutely not! In fact it can have a very important role, read below to find out why.

Why does technique matter?

why does technique matterTechnique analysis allows physiotherapists to analyse factors that might be contributing to your injury. For example in running, your stride length, knee angle at landing and mid-stride, where your foot lands in relation to your midline, how much your ankle rolls in can all play part in your injury and can prolong it if not addressed. Injuries largely occur as a result of tissue being unable to adapt to the load they’re being subjected to. 

Let’s put this in context, let’s say you have a proximal hamstring tendinopathy - an overuse injury at the top of your hamstrings (muscles at the back of your thigh). You’ve recently increased your running load as you’re training for a running event later in the year. The injury is a result of your tendons not coping with the amount of load you’ve put them under. You’ve tried reducing your kilometres per week though the pain just isn’t subsiding. A common biomechanical finding with proximal hamstring tendinopathies can be overstriding, that is, landing with your foot far out in front of you, consequently putting your hamstrings and tendons under a lot of load. This biomechanical factor is important as it gives us direction for your rehabilitation and how to de-load your hamstrings – taking shorter strides for a little while.

Similarly, for knee injuries in runners, we might look at how straight your knee is when landing and how bent it is during mid-stride and calculating the amount of work going through the knee. If you’re landing with your knee nearly straight and finding it is really bent during your stride we can employ specific strategies to lessen the work at your knee joint to allow tissue to recover. 

physios assess how you moveAs you can see, the context of how someone moves can be very relevant for injury rehabilitation and in some cases, can allow people to continue their sport with restrictions as opposed to withdrawing altogether.

If you’re battling an ongoing injury, it’s worth exploring your sporting technique with a Physiologix physiotherapist to determine if it might in fact, be prolonging your injury.

This article was written by Dr Molly Connolly, Physiotherapist at Physiologix. Molly also has a degree in Exercise and Sports Science.