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Dr. Boyd: Stress, Recover, Adapt

Stress, Recover, Adapt: Strategies to Mitigate Performance Decrements

by Dr. Jarred Boyd

Athletes at the collegiate, professional, and Olympic levels are training harder than ever before to gain a competitive advantage over their opponents. Even at the youth level, if you visit any large or small town, you’ll witness athletes dedicated to improving their physical abilities in pursuit of reaching the next level. This is great for the world of sports, as it cultivates a higher level of competition.

The increased attention to physical preparation, however, brings with it a greater need to recognize that there should remain a balance for optimizing athlete recovery. It is imperative to remain conscious of this concept; otherwise, the expression of the physiological and biological systems will not meet the demands of an athlete’s environment.

Generally speaking, a physical preparation coach’s ultimate goal is to reduce the potential for injury by prioritizing fundamentals and enhancing the development of biomotor qualities (strength, power, and speed), which will simultaneously aid performance. One of the main goals for a sports physical therapist, on the other hand, is to facilitate the mitigation of pain while improving comprehensive capacity.

Ultimately, the objective of both professions is similar: to increase the longevity of each athlete’s capacity to express their highest potential while remaining durable. To accomplish these goals, we need to have a basic understanding of stress, so we can develop resilience and prepare players for the physical demands of competition.

This article highlights three practical methods to facilitate a shift to recovery and promote the positive adaptation to training loads. With this information, all parties involved in the athletic development process, especially physical preparation coaches and practitioners, can further assist athletes in displaying high physical capacities while mitigating their susceptibility to injury.

I don’t intend to create a narrative that training load, which is indeed a stressor, is the injury instigator and performance detractor in and of itself. Instead, quite the opposite is true. We should view physical training as a prophylactic and antidote to injury, which occurs only if we establish an accumulation of training load, or steady-chronic exposure, as opposed to sudden and abrupt, acute exposures.

For this to occur, an athlete must be prepared to accept their next bout of training. Athletes acquire this readiness from inter-session recovery, which discourages maladaptive disturbances in the system and encourages adaptive responses.

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