Exercise / Psychosocial

The Inevitability of Injury

Graph taken from Hootman et al. 2007; Journal of Athletic TrainingEvery athlete knows the exhilaration of good fitness, the effortlessness of peak performance.  Unfortunately, to be an avid exerciser is to also experience the exquisite torture of a sports-related injury. For example, the yearly incidence rate for running injuries varies  between 37 and 56%, with about 50-75% attributable to overuse (i.e., constant repetition of the same movement). Collegiate sports injuries, shown in the graph at right as injury rate per 1000 athlete exposures in games or practices, are also an unfortunate byproduct of the competitive environment necessary to succeed athletically at a top level.

Although there are established guidelines for preventing athletic injuries, the likelihood remains high that most physically active individuals will experience injury over their athletic lifetime. Why? Well, the average adult human has 206 bones and over 230 joints, making human movement extremely complex. To gain an appreciation of just how complicated and intricate motion can be, look at these  photographs from Etienne Jules-Marey.  Jules-Marey was a French scientist who utilized a novel  chronophotographic gun (which could take 12 consecutive frames a second recorded on the same picture) to capture some of the first precise images documenting the series of movements underlying human locomotion.Marey 1Marey 2Saut à la percheMarey 4It has been well-documented that one of the biggest challenges of a sports injury is the psychological trauma experienced by the individual. The typical athlete moves through varying degrees of grief, denial, anxiety and depression before accepting the inevitability of the injury and initiating rehabilitation and recovery. Thus, gaining an appreciation of the complexity of human movement– to marvel at locomotion and understand the great potential for injury–is perhaps a useful perspective with which to help physically active individuals frame their mindset about exercise and injury. They are two sides to the wonderful intricacy of a human body in motion.

Here’s the link to a few more pictures by Jules-Marey.

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