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You can’t fire a canon from a canoe

Kevin Brown is one of the top athletic trainers in the country and owner of Red Point Training Center and Elite Physical Therapy in Southern California. Kevin works with world class athletes from the National Football League, National Basketball Association, Major League Baseball and Professional Golfers Association. When Kevin isn’t working with pro teams and athletes he carries a private patient load and still donates time in his community for post-rehab and performance training of high school and college athletes.

Kevin and I were up in Wyoming last July making a rock climb of the Grand Teton for his 50th birthday. We have been climbing partners for almost two decades but oddly enough we had never had an in-depth conversation about his work. On the drive out to the Tetons, we had a chance to discuss the state of athletic training at the high school and collegiate levels.

Kevin’s main observation is that too many young athletes are sustaining noncontact and overuse injuries due to the weakness of the muscles that stabilize their joints. It’s like this Kevin explained, “Imagine two athletes of identical in skill and strength, who are playing a game of basketball on a wood court in a gymnasium. One athlete is wearing a good pair of basketball shoes. The other athlete is playing in his socks. Who do you think is going to win?”



Of course the first athlete will win because he is more stable and can recruit all his strength. The second athlete has two choices. He can either apply his strength, try to move quickly, spinout and possibly get injured. Or he must move slowly, careful not to use his full strength in order to stay stable and balanced. Either way you have an athlete who is under performing.

Most young athletes function like the second athlete – far short of their full potential and prone to injury. If the athlete’s stabilization muscles are weak, areas like the rotator cuff, the low back and the ligaments that support the knee, such as the Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL,) receive more force then they are capable of handling and often become strained or injured.




Kevin notes that most young athletes and often their coaches put “the cart before the horse” so to speak and focus too much on “sports specific training”. They obsess on building the “big muscles” in the arms and legs which tend over power the stabilization muscles leading to potential injury. From a “performance perspective” when a coach trains his athlete’s stabilization muscles, the young athlete’s body becomes more stable and capable of utilizing existing strength of the big muscles, leading to better performance. “It’s a win, win situation.” Kevin says.

Kevin also feels that many young athletes who are considered “not athletic or not competitive” are simply just unstable. “You can see it in the way they move.” He says. “Their knees cave inwards when they jump or cut to the side while running. Their posture is bad, shoulders are rounded or there’s excessive arch in their lower back when throwing. You just need to get them strong in the right places to perform well.”

There are a couple of other issues at play here as well. The first is that the athletic environment has become very competitive and specialized. At a young age, many kids are focusing on just one sport and then between team play and club play and tournaments plus “sports performance” training they play nearly year around. In essence, they never get a chance to rest and recover so they become prone to chronic overuse injuries at an early age.

The second big issue is puberty. These athletes go from being kids to gangly young adults with longer limbs and pounds of new muscle. Because they haven’t learned how to use their new found strength, many athletic movements tend to generate excessive force on their young joints. Young women also accumulate more body fat relative to lean tissue and their hips become wider both of which produce greater force on the ligaments that support their knees.

Kevin also works with elite level tri-athletes, ultra-runners and bicycle racers. He says that most endurance athletes are under “strengthed” and often suffer chronic overuse injuries which could be reduced by proper strengthening of the core and hips. The core is crucial for lumbar support of the low back and proper alignment of the knee and ankle. Stabilization training could reduce many overuse issues including patellar femoral syndrome, knee pain, shin splints and planter fasciitis.

Next week, John Seivert of Seivert Psychical Therapy and I team up to utilize some of these principals with the Bear River football team. I’ll fill you in on the details in my next column.

Mike Carville is a NASM/RKC-certified personal trainer and co-owner of South Yuba Club in Nevada City (SouthYubaClub.com) and Monster Gym in Grass Valley (MonsterGyms.com). Contact him at mikec@southyubaclub.com.


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