Is overtraining the cause of many sports-related injuries?

2015-08-28 13:56:36 by Dr. Joe Congeni - Director of Sports Medicine, as posted on the blog.


With so many players stuck on the sidelines with hamstring, shoulder, elbow or other injuries, I can't help but wonder if it's due to overtraining.

Players are training the same muscles hard year-round, instead of taking the recommended full season off (3 months), and are incurring more wear and tear. The race to be the biggest, fastest, strongest athlete may come at a cost.

This week, I visited in studio and spoke with 1590 WAKR morning show host Ray Horner about this topic. Kids could do some lighter conditioning on their off season, but I think playing another sport during that time is the most beneficial.

Below is an audio file and transcript of our discussion.

HORNER: Dr. Joe Congeni with us in studio.

Joe, we got into an interesting conversation on the air yesterday because Tony, our producer, has made so many trips to Browns training camp and he counted one day a couple weeks ago 18 players that would be on the 53-man roster sitting on the sidelines with hamstrings and other injuries and such.

Dr. Joe Congeni Dr. Joe Congeni

We've read all about the ACL tears, the Achilles tendon tears and it gets into what can you do? Why is this? Is this just bad luck? Are we overtraining? Are we under training? This is a sports medicine doctor, how do you look at this?

DR. CONGENI: Yeah, you know what ... I have all the answers to this. And so, the deal is if I have all the answers, I'm not gonna tell you on the air.


DR. CONGENI: I'm heading to Berea or I'm going to the Greenbrier, where the (New Orleans) Saints have 17 people out or something like that. It's really something.

I actually, last time after I talked to you, I scoured the literature to see anybody has a new plan about how to do it.

But you asked me the question, let me tell ya. I think it's overtraining; I think it's on the side of overtraining.

HORNER: I do, too.

DR. CONGENI: I think these guys are pushing themselves so close to that edge.

HORNER: The pressure.

DR. CONGENI: ... How big can they be? How fast can they be? Aren't we getting near the point where ? You know, how fast can you run a 40? How big and strong can we make these players? And, I think it's overtraining. I really, really, really think it's overtraining.

And, it does filter down like everything else. We see it in college kids that have been in my office the last month or 2, and we definitely see it in high school kids, too.

... It's frustrating and coaches , you know, "How do you test somebody? Can I play 'em this week?" And, they go back out and then you get a setback.

So, it's very hard to know when these kids are ready with these things, but I think it's overtraining, Ray, for sure.

HORNER: Well, when you look at, uh, for example, these NFL Scouting Combines that now happen in February. You're talking about kids that poured out there for football and then they go right in because they see the increased draft status, the increased dollars to be made, the difference between a 4.3 and a 4.4 40.

So, they're working hard those 3 months after football, leading into football. I agree with you. It's 12 months a year of pushing these muscles real hard.


DR. CONGENI: Yeah ... I mean football used to be the last bastion. They took a season off, you know, took all of winter off ...


DR. CONGENI: and healed and things like that. They get in the weight room on December first. I mean ... basically, maybe take a month off. They're right back at it; they're conditioning again, if they're just a football player and they don't play other sports.

I am all for playing other sports. I really think all the evidence is showing to be well-rounded play other sports. I think a lot of well-meaning coaches are telling their kids to wrestle, run track, do some other things sports-wise.

I think if you're just in there training all the time, I think it contributes to some of these injuries we see, Ray. I really do.

HORNER: Well, and then you take it to baseball and that's kinda where I am right now. You're seeing these kids, you know, from 12, 13 on up, they're hitting the baseball 12 months a year. We're seeing an increased amount of these oblique muscle strains.

DR. CONGENI: mm-hmm

HORNER: You think about pitching and hitting, those are the muscles you're using.

DR. CONGENI: The obliques in the hitters, and the shoulders and elbows in the throwers. And, I am getting 'em at such weird times of year. They're coming in in February and March in my office, very strange.

I did not see that -- I have the history to say it, 29 years -- I did not see that the first 10 or 15 years of my career. And now, I see these injuries any time of year 'cause kids play year-round. Same sport; same activity. Have your kid play a variety of different sports.

HORNER: Wear and tear on those muscles.

DR. CONGENI: Wear and tear on those muscles. Play different sports.

HORNER: If you were giving me advice right now, ? I'm a travel baseball coach ... and fall season ends 2nd week of October. They all wanna get going in November, should I hold them off until January?

DR. CONGENI: Gosh, it's so hard to do because everybody else is playing all winter and then they'd say, "Hey, gosh, Horner's team is not serious."

HORNER: Right, but the big picture.

DR. CONGENI: But, the fact is one full season off; one season of the year, 3 months, off totally. I know it seems , but studies prove this. ... If they are gonna be just a one-sport athlete, uh, take one full season of the year, 3 months, off from that sport totally.

It definitely itself out as being the best, or diversify. Play other sports than just your one given sport.

HORNER: If a student athlete takes a season off, whether they play football, basketball, baseball, should they still do the leg and training your muscle work? Or, when you say off, what are you talking about?

DR. CONGENI: They can be doing some of the training work, but I really like 'em playing another sport over that period of time. I really do.

HORNER: Yeah. I tried with Rocco. He wrestled one year. He didn't like it, and then I tried to say, "Hey, why don't you play football or basketball?" He just didn't like it.

He said, "I just wanna play baseball." So, what I've done with him in the off seasons is really try to do a lot of the leg work to try to improve some of the speed and that type of thing.

DR. CONGENI: I think that's probably a good idea. Yeah, some lighter conditioning and not really pushing too hard in the weight room and mix it up. Do some lower extremity, upper extremity and core.

HORNER: Alright, good stuff, Joe. Thanks for coming in.

DR. CONGENI: Thanks, Ray. Have a great week.

HORNER: You too. Dr. Joe Congeni, by the way, you'll see him on the sidelines, I'm sure, tomorrow night for Hoban and McKinley. Joe, how many years have you been down on the sidelines with Hoban?

DR. CONGENI: This is No. 29.

HORNER: Twenty-nine years. You'll see him each and every game, unless something comes up, with Hoban football.

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