Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : June 14th 2013 Contents A70
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Friday, June 14, 2013
"Work through the pain!" A statement too often
made impartially by too many coaches.
Everyone knows that a part of becoming a better
athlete requires some measure of pain tolerance but
statements such as this must be made with great
care, always mindful of the maturity of the audience,
otherwise such coaches could find themselves some-
what liable for injuries or exacerbating injuries.
Whether dealing with youths, amateurs and some-
times even elites, the competitive personality which
is a key component to creating a top athlete will see
pain as a requirement to athletic success.
Regardless of whether the goal is to improve a per-
sonal best or to place first, pain is not something
that is feared as much as it is expected.
The pain threshold can become quite high, making
it difficult sometimes to trust an athlete to differentiate
between whether they are bettering their performance
or doing themselves more harm than good.
Athletes who are being trained for success have,
in essence, placed a certain amount of trust in their
coach. Trust that their coach has the knowledge to
bring out the best in them. Trust that he knows
when it is time to push harder, or time to taper.
Trust that regardless of how badly he/she might
want his hard work and effort to end with that gold
medal, the only thing that would matter more, is
his/her athlete s health and safety.
Dealing with injuries can be a frustrating part of
a coach s existence. When the pressure is on to pro-
duce results, the last thing coaches ever want to deal
with is an injury.
However, regardless of how strong that appetite
is for success, the coach is as much obligated to
his/her athlete s physical wellbeing as he is to any
of the other stakeholders be they the team owners,
the fans or themselves.
An athlete consistently complaining of pain must
not be ignored and to do so is to abuse one s authority
as coach. Athletes who refuse to admit their limitations
due to injury, eventually learn to deal with pain after
the body has made as many compensations as it is
willing or able to.
Such an existence goes from being an inconvenience
to a part of life and the spillover effect of it is the
inability to distinguish between what is referred to
as "good pain" or "bad pain."
"Good pain" is the pain that coaches refer to when
the blanket statement "work through the pain" is
made. As part of making the body better and/or
stronger, the body is subject to a certain amount of
Chemical changes in the tissue and microtrauma
to the muscle leads to a level of inflammation that
is very much needed in helping the body become a
The more resilient it becomes the more pressure
it can withstand relatively comfortably and this goes
for both the physical as well as the mental aspects
of fitness and performance.
The "bad pain" however, is a different sensation
and it triggers a different response from both the body
and the brain. It may or may not be acknowledged
right away but at some point it is and the sooner it
is addressed/corrected, the more likely the chances of
a quicker recovery. Sometimes, the existence
or the severity of an injury can be quicker
noted by the coach looking on than the athlete
himself. The body subconsciously compen-
sates in different ways to avoid pain. These
compensations can be detected by changes
in performance or output---how quickly he
recovers from a tackle, his acceleration pace,
facial expressions, consistently reaching for
a particular spot (which can be happening
subconsciously by the athlete), an unusual
movement pattern... and the list goes on.
Teams with specialist coaches bring this
added advantage. Instead of having one coach
to a large number of athletes, the team is
grouped according to function making it a
smaller coach to player ratio adding the obvi-
ous benefits of such a set up.
The environment in Trinidad and Tobago
makes it a tremendous challenge to reach
most sporting goals, regardless of the role
in the industry, from athlete to therapist.
As such, the expectations of the technical
coach, who has the greatest chances of com-
munication with the athlete, morphs into
one of being able to "do it all." The reality
of this is, the best coaches in any sport, do
not know how to do it all nor do they expect
it of themselves. The best coaches build
themselves a team that will complement
themselves and vice versa in the interest of
the athlete and the sport.
Asha De Freitas-Moseley is a certified
athletic trainer with the National Athletic Train-
ers' Association of the USA. She has more
than ten years of experience working with
athletes and other members of the active pop-
ulation, rehabilitating and returning them from
injury to full play. She can be reached at 17
Henry Pierre Street, St James. Tel: 221-2437.
Pain---necessary to athletic success
Good pain is the pain that coaches refer to when the
blanket statement "work through the pain" is made.
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