Deceleration: The Secret to Being Fast on the Field

February 15, 2015

 

Decrease Injuries, Increase Performance  ---- Deceleration

 

Let’s take a car, an athletically-challenged friend’s sturdy, dull kind of car.  We’re going to remove the engine and replace it with a high performance engine built by the best racing engine designers in the business.  It’s going to look pretty much the same but be phenomenally fast.   Oh, we’re also removing the brakes.  Get in, buckle your seat belt, and enjoy the power and speed -  until we need those brakes and crash. 

 

Our athletes are crashing.  We train them to be faster.  We train them to be stronger.  We “train in” incredible acceleration, powerful speed, heightened jumps.  As we put those metaphorical high performance racing engines into their bodies, the forces that can cause injury increase.  So, we need to train them to decelerate, to stop, to land jumps;  we need to install high performance braking systems. The unchecked increase in non-contact ACL injuries confirms the escalating accident rate.  Practice and training have to mimic the actual demands of the sport on the athlete –  the kids have to stop, they have to land in an actual game.  While it seems counter-intuitive, improving stopping speed and technique not only prevents injuries, but improves speed on the field.

 

The human body is not designed for modern sports.  Stopping, cutting quickly while moving, landing from heights - these abilities are not built into our biomechanical systems.  So we either stop playing sports (and we’re all out of jobs we like), or we start teaching our athletes how to control the tremendous forces that are generated in these movements.

Studies show the techniques to slow down, stop and land correctly are 80­%-90% effective in reducing the chance of injuries.  Across genders, injury prevention and increased performance are built on proper deceleration and landing techniques.  The techniques of deceleration are designed to reduce force, obviously, if you reduce force, you put less strain on the body.  Remember, tremendous force, subsequently strain, is present every time an athlete incorrectly decelerates or incorrectly lands a jump; that’s thousands of times a season.  

 

Every sports movement uses all three of these muscle functions:

1. Concentrically muscles function to create acceleration.

2. Isometrically muscles function to create stability.

3. Eccentrically muscles function to create deceleration

1. Concentrically muscles function to create acceleration.

 

Training and practices tend to focus on concentric functions, but eccentric contractions set up the concentric.  To increase athletic performance and decrease injuries, we need to make eccentric training part of every practice.  Deceleration techniques improve neuromuscular control, augment the structural integrity of connective tissue, and reduce forces the body was not built to handle.  

 

The coaching profession generally doesn’t teach and practice deceleration or landing because we assume that kids know how to slow down, know how to stop, know how to land a jump;   they don’t.  In order to deal with the demands of modern sports on athletes’ bodies we incorporate two elements into our training regimes. 

 

  • Every drill has a start and a finish.  Just watching the start of a sprint is the equivalent of just watching the start of the game.  A coach needs to watch technique at the end of sprints as closely as at the beginning.  Watch the landing of a jump.  Watch the lowering process of a lift.

  •  

  • Teach force reduction, or deceleration, techniques and then continually correct technique.  It takes more effort to change a learned bad technique than it does to insist on proper technique to begin with.  Unfortunately, by high school most athletes have acquired some really bad deceleration techniques; demonstrate correct technique and insist on its practice.

 

 

Running Deceleration

Most athletes have a high center of gravity when they decelerate so they are unbalanced and they keep their legs and knees straight. That’s a recipe for disaster. 

Proper position  (1 ) Lower your center of gravity closer to your base of support  (2) Use soft foot contacts as you decelerate (3) Keep the shoulder over the knee and the knee over the ankle position, (4) Make sure you come to a complete stop and hold  that stop

 

 

Jump Landing: The athlete should bend at the ankle, knee,

and hip to absorb the force of landing. 

 

(1)The athlete should pretense the muscles before landing to absorb force.  (2) Bend at the knees and sit the hips back.  (3) Keep the chest over the knee and the knee over the ankle. (4) Land using a soft landing with the weight on the balls of the feet. 

 

 

Estimates are that there are 200,000 ACL injuries alone in the United States each year.  Estimated cost for treatment exceeds a billion dollars annually.  Economically, how much might our sport insurance rates drop if we could prevent even half of those injuries?  How much more money would that give our programs?   If good deceleration techniques can prevent 80-90 percent of those injuries, how many of our athletes would be on the playing field, increasing their abilities and self-confidence, instead of in rehab?  And we know that an athlete who can decelerate actually is faster and performs better on the playing field. Deceleration is a skill.  It can be learned.  It must be continually practiced.

 

Deceleration:     It’s time to pay as much attention to the brakes as we do to the engine.

 

Martin Rooney, Parisi Speed School & CEO Training for Warriors. 

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