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By Marc Madruga, technic director of bewolfish, PhD student at the University of Girona, responsible for EUSES-lab and research projects. Professor in CAFiE degree and master’s degree at EUSES University. He has been Technical Director of the Valencian handball federation and coordinator of the BM Granollers.

A few weeks ago, we talked about the readaptation process of injuries in the anterior cruciate ligament. In the article we mentioned the importance of carrying out functional evaluations, from the point of view of the levels of sport’s approach, to determine the neuromuscular risk factors of an athlete. We stressed that thanks to the values we obtain, the physical trainer can schedule specific and individualized training plans to reduce the risk factors of the athletes and, at the same time, to improve their performance.

Today we will explain what the neuromuscular risk factors are, which are the evaluations that every athlete should carry out and what injuries can be mitigated with these evaluations. In addition, we will analyse three of the main reasons why it is important that all athletes periodically perform functional evaluations. The reasons are: knowing their current physic conditioning, to detect neuromuscular risk factors, and to observe the training evolution. Always focusing on sports specificity and the characteristics of each athlete.

‘For footballers, it is very useful to analyse

the power of the shot with a radar or

the speed in the change of direction

with photoelectric cells’

It must be said that there are many types of evaluations. In bewolfish, we focus especially on functional neuromuscular assessments because the data obtained allow us to make training plans to improve the performance of the athlete, to follow up a readaptation process, and to reduce the risk of lower extremity injuries. The most common evaluations are those of jumps and changes in direction. These evaluations allow us to analyse power and speed values, to detect the differences that may exist between legs, to observe coordinative characteristics, as well as to establish the current state of the athlete’s performance.

In addition to these two tests, jumps and changes in direction, in bewolfish we also carry out other evaluations, such as:

  1. Dorsiflexion of the ankle, core stability and power.
  2. Qualitative assessments (coordinative analysis).
  3. Balance with force platform to detect the oscillation of the gravity centre, the differences between legs …

These assessments provide us with data to determine the profile of the athlete, from absolute values, deficits, asymmetries, imbalances to neuromuscular facilitation. They must be valid, reliable and reproducible evaluations, sensitive and precise. At the same time as functional and similar to specific actions of the sport, depending on the level of the athlete, age and time of the season. For example, for footballers, it is very useful to analyse the power of the shot with a radar or the speed in the change of direction with photoelectric cells since they are two of the most executed actions in this sports discipline.

 

On the other hand, these evaluations allow us to detect neuromuscular risk factors. Therefore, to detect those factors that predispose to suffer injuries such as neuromuscular fatigue, deficit of body stability, muscle imbalances, alteration of the mechanism of preactivation, dynamic knee valgus, poor muscle stiffness, dynamic control or alteration of proprioceptive sensitivity [1]. For most athletes, the most frequent and most feared injuries are those of the anterior cruciate ligament, athletic pubalgia or muscle injuries. Therefore, a good analysis of the athlete is very important to be able to carry out preventive and individualized training and thus to be able to perform always at the highest level. We must bear in mind that injuries in young footballers occur mainly in the lower extremities (71-80%), with a low proportion of overuse injuries (5%) and a high proportion of injuries by acute mechanisms in the ankles and knees (20%) [2].

‘The most frequent injuries are

of the anterior cruciate ligament,

athletic pubalgia or muscle injuries’

Finally, we mentioned at the beginning that functional evaluations also help us to design training plans and to observe their evolution. In this sense, integrated neuromuscular training is one of the pillars of bewolfish training due to its benefits in the readaptation processes and in the preventive-optimizing field. We focus on tasks’ variability, in stimuli, in multidirectional and unilateral actions, from basic to specific motor skills, with great importance to coordination and specificity in a neuromuscular training environment as the axis of the optimization process.

In order to carry out the neuromuscular training, we have all the material needed, such as unstable surfaces, inertial technology, material for functional training and, above all, a lot of analysis to create tasks designed for the improvement of the athlete. In the case of footballers, they can perform tasks very similar to the specificity in a gym, thinking of coordinating actions in conical pulley (eccentric overload), trying to reproduce those changes in direction more frequent and causing disturbances with specific stimuli (ball, contacts …).

 

[1] Read, P. et al. 2016

[2] Rumpf, M., et al. 2012

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