December 28, 2012

Sports medicine: Offseason is time to re-energize, improve

By Daniel McGovern

As the host of fall tournaments ends and lacrosse moves from outdoors to indoors in New England, the offseason provides ample opportunity to relax and to improve your game.  

Dr. Daniel McGovern is a board certified sports physicaltherapist, assistant professor of physical therapy at Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, and clinical director of Prescription Orthopedic and Sports Therapy (P.O.S.T.) in Cohasset, Mass. 

But having an “offseason” does not mean taking a season off, especially with all of the challenges of spring and the “real season” looming. Instead, the offseason is the perfect time to enhance your physical and mental skills, and to work on the areas of your game that need further development.

Start by getting input from your coach or coaches. Ask for their ideas on where you should focus to get the most immediate improvement in your overall game, something where they think time on the wall, in winter leagues or at the gym will pay dividends come springtime, and how they would suggest you go about developing that skill (if they think it will help you, they should have some ideas for drills or exercises).

You may need to work on a specific skill (passing with your weak hand, for example) or a particular physical characteristic (sprinting acceleration); these particular elements of your game can be improved with proper and consistent training.

A major component of a sound offseason plan includes a comprehensive strength and conditioning program.

Mark Stonkus, owner of MBX Training & Clutch Athlete in Norwell, Mass., says a complete program should be designed to increase your speed, power, agility and stamina, while also decreasing the risk of injury. 

When selecting a program for offseason strength and conditioning, many options are available for the lacrosse athlete to improve his/her physical abilities.

Stonkus says it’s critical to make sure that any training program is “developmentally appropriate.” Select a program designed to make you a better athlete and lacrosse player, but avoid programs that are a “random selection of exercises,” which he says can lead to “greater risk of injury, burnout or poor body-mechanics.”
Exercise programs taken from an infomercial or observed on the sports channel — although challenging — are not designed for improved sports performance and/or injury reduction.

For example, at MBX Training, the body and mind are trained simultaneously in order to achieve one’s desired results. Stonkus advocates combining training with healthy eating habits, strong academic focus and the avoidance of drug/alcohol use; he believes that this combination will allow you to be the very best player possible.

The offseason also is a good time to allow the body to recover; this includes recovery from the demands of a long season and from any injuries.

Proper rehabilitation of injuries is critical for a return to optimal performance, and it’s important to recognize that a lack of pain is not the only indicator of complete injury recovery. An injury can heal but leave the athlete with limitations in mobility and strength, deficits that can hinder performance and/or increase the risk of re-injury or injury to another body part.

Implementing these suggestions — working on your game, your conditioning, your health and your attitude — you can use the offseason to re-energize yourself for when the game is on.

This article originally appeared in the November-December 2012 issue of New England Lacrosse Journal.

Twitter: @SportMedInsider