Judo is a dangerous sport - or is it just the pursuit of excellence that's dangerous?!
A couple of weeks ago I conducted an injury screening for 2 members of the Great Britain Judo team. I concluded that Judo is a dangerous sport! This was the week before they were representing GB in a Judo tournament- who knows they may be representing GB at the 2012 Olympics! How did we come into contact with these Judo players? Well…
At BOOST PHYSIO we are privileged to be a Talented Athlete Scholarship Scheme physio clinic (TASS- click here for more info about TASS). What’s TASS I hear you ask- it is a Government funded programme to support and fast-track young sporting talent, the potential medal winners of the future- and BOOST PHYSIO is one of the clinics looking after these athletes. Click here to view a Video about TASS.
So during this athlete screening I had to screen 2 female judo players which left me with the philosophical question- why do elite athletes have so many injuries and what leads some to succeed and others not?
One of the girls had broken her arm and her wrist previously and had a thumb injury, the other had a dislocated thumb – all from Judo. But these girls were tough- training hard in conjunction with their strength and conditioning coaches. I wondered to myself- are these injuries simply the consequence of contact sport, or is it something else, perhaps the extreme lengths to which elite sports people push themselves to achieve excellence? Could an ability to recover better from injury allow one to to succeed while another fails?
I’ve never seen a 19year old athlete who’s had a steroid injection for an injury before (usually it’s over 30’s and sometimes those in their 20’s), so when I did this hit home and reminded me the extremes to which sports people push their bodies in pursuit of their dreams.
Rafael Nadal’s poor performance at the Australian Open seems to be put down almost entirely to injury from pushing himself too much, some critics even wonder if he’s going to be able to come back in the same way because of his injury problems. I’ve had to treat injuries of various county level tennis players ranging from 10 to 17 years old. The one who I think gets pushed the hardest is the 10 year old boy- whether it is him or his mum who does the pushing I am sometimes not too sure- but when kids under 14 come regularly for physio for various injuries one asks the question- is this simply the cost of the pursuit of excellence or is this abnormal. Furthermore could it be that what dictates whether he will ever make it to Wimbeldon is actually his physical make-up and pre-disposition to injury that may make him miss 1 or 2 critical seasons of training and competition?
A recent article in the Telegraph talks about the mounting concern over the Winter Olympics casualty list and safety of the various sports- it would seem that the sports and events themselves are becoming more extreme, not only the athletes themselves who are pusing the boundaries all the time. Clearly there is a huge psychological element to why and how athletes push themselves to the extremes.
Enough philosophising- to sum up it is clear to me that to even aspire to elite sporting success requires enormous physical sacrifice and dedication, along with mental tennacity and extreme focus. But that to succeed in achieving the pinnacle of one’s sport will almost always be dictated by the ability to ward off serious injury. I firmly believe that those athletes on the winners podium have their genetic code to thank in warding off career stopping injury in what Darwin would call survival of the fittest!
So the reason why I have always achieved sporting mediocrity must be down to my genetic code- it just aint good enough 🙂