Increase Recovery and Decrease Injury

UC Davis' Keith Baar explains how you can help your athletes avoid injury and stay on the field by understanding some of the most common causes for athlete injury and how to reduce them.
May 14, 2018

Over 60% of all injuries suffered by athletes are one of the five types of musculoskeletal injuries:


  • Volume of training or competition at a high mechanical load is too high
  • Commonly this manifests as stress fracture or tendinitis


  • When the tendon is stiffer than the muscle is strong
  • Commonly this manifests as muscle pulls


  • When a ligament is not stiff enough to prevent laxity
  • Commonly this is seen in women who rupture their ACLs


  • When there is a difference in strength or stiffness in the muscles across a joint
  • Commonly this is seen in noncontact rupture of the ACL


  • When there is a traumatic injury to a bone, tendon, or joint
  • Commonly seen in impact sports and are difficult to avoid

Practical Application

Loading to minimize musculoskeletal injury

  • Consider incorporating protective or health sessions into training:
    • Short (5 min.) sessions to target bone, cartilage and tendon
    • Separate these from other training by 6hrs
    • Incorporate slow/isometric movements to decrease tendon stiffness
  • Split long training sessions into 2 separate training bouts to minimize fatigue-related injury

Use nutrition to support musculoskeletal adaptations

  • Consider giving athletes gelatin or hydrolyzed collagen an hour before training or competition
  • The rise in pro-collagen amino acids peaks one hour after taking a gelatin supplement
  • 15g of gelatin taken one hour before 6 minutes of jump rope activity increases collagen synthesis in young males

Use rest wisely

  • Inactivity can increase tendon stiffness (Arruda 2006)
  • Therefore, following injury or breaks in training, slowly ramp up training load and intensity
  • Complete rest is often not the answer. Intermittent periods of activity with 6-8 hours rest is often better (Robling 2000)

  1. Arruda EM, Calve S, Dennis RG, Mundy K, Baar K (2006) Regional variation of tibialis anterior tendon mechanics is lost following denervation. J Appl Physiol 101:1113-1117.
  2. Robling, A. G., Burr, D. B., and Turner, C. H. Partitioning a daily mechanical stimulus into discrete loading bouts improves the osteogenic response to loading. J Bone Miner Res 15:1596–1602; 2000