By Dr Guy Ashburner | March 8, 2020


“In pursuit of optimal performance training, loads have increased dramatically, which in turn has increased the risk of overtraining” Gould & Dieffenbach, 2002

Athletes undergo rigorous training preparing to compete at a high level to succeed and win at their sport. Athletes must put their bodies under a certain amount of stress to increase physical capabilities. Where the stress loads are appropriate, then the athlete’s body adapts to the demands placed upon it.

As athletes train, they can train so vigorously causing their performance to suffer, causing overtraining, requiring days to weeks to recover. Coaches may also describe this as “burnout” or as a result of going too hard, too fast, too often.

This could impact the athlete’s ability to compete. Overtraining is when an athlete or exercise enthusiast experiences fatigue and declining performance in sport despite continuing or increased training when they have been repeatedly stressed by training to the point where rest is no longer adequate to allow for recovery. Overtraining is different for everyone, and not necessarily immediately obvious. Symptoms may include frequent injuries, inconsistent athletic performance, decreased motivation, mood changes, decreased energy, fatigue, sleep disruption, and infections.

Over trained athletes generally present at osteopathic practices with physical symptoms that include persistent muscular soreness, increased frequency of infections and most notably, increased incidence of injuries. Overuse injuries may include – Achilles tendonitis, shin splints, runner’s knee, muscle strains and tears, ITB syndrome, neck and back pain and rotator cuff tendonitis – can be caused by too much volume or intensity of training. The body is simply unable to cope with the stresses of the training load and injuries result. In reality, hard training breaks athletes down and making them temporarily weaker, while it is rest that makes them stronger. Physiologic improvement in sports actually occurs during the rest period following hard training. During recovery periods, the cardiovascular and muscular systems build to greater levels in response to the stimulus applied during training. If sufficient rest is not included in a training program, then regeneration cannot occur and performance will actually plateau. If this imbalance between excess training and inadequate rest persists, then performance may even decline.

Osteopaths may help athletes as they train to stay healthy by keeping their joints in optimal alignment, keeping their muscles loose and working with their coach to create a program to avoid injury while training. From a myofascial standpoint, osteopathic treatment may help attain and maintain muscle balance and break down myofascial adhesions from overuse in their training. Osteopathic manipulation will help the athlete achieve proper joint functioning while not compromising their performance. Osteopaths may help athletes avoid fatigue, injury, and overtraining and help educate athletes how to better take care of themselves. When you bring the body back to its ideal state, you can ward off injuries, promote healing and repair, and maintain peak physical health.

Athletes and coaches should be aware of the early warning signs of overtraining and modify training accordingly as proper conditioning requires a balance between load and recovery. Listen to your body and don’t ignore pain. Be proactive when you start to feel aches and pains by having problem areas evaluated right away. Muscle pain and soreness is normal with increased training, but if pain persists it could indicate a more serious problem. Seeking treatment early will require less time off and keep you on track for an optimal sports performance.Generally speaking, the body adapts best to small, frequent challenges followed by proper recovery rather than massive challenges all at once.

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