The "Injury Prone" Myth

Today we released Episode 6 of Next Level PT TV, and the topic hits close to home for me.

In this episode I discuss what it means to be injury prone, and how our idea of injury prone as an inherent human trait is terribly mistaken.


I want to talk to you about a topic that hits close with me and that’s the idea of “injury prone” and what it means to be “injury prone”.

And to get into this topic I want to give you a brief outline of my personal background and how I got into Physical Therapy and strength training.

So there’s no way you could tell by looking at me now…but several years ago I used to be a pretty high-level basketball player…the sport was a passion of mine…and still is...I lived it when I was younger…and I was decent.

When I was healthy in high school, I was a scholarship level player…problem was…I was rarely healthy!

It was injury after injury, I missed multiple seasons because of different injuries, and I would get so frustrated by my friends who were just always healthy…I was envious!

And when you have injury after injury like that…you know how it goes if you follow pro sports…you get hit with that label…he’s injury prone…he’s soft…no toughness.

And it’s hard as an athlete to deal with that, because it feels so outside of your control.

So anyway, I battled injuries as a high school player, wound up at a D3 school, hurt my knee the summer before my Freshman year, and despite my best efforts, had to hang it up because of that injury.

That ate away at me for a long time. You put so much effort into something and not getting to tap your potential because of something outside of you control…that’s tough.

But ultimately, I rechanneled that energy into becoming a physical therapist and a strength coach, with the ultimate goal being if 16 year old me walks into my clinic Monday morning…I’m going to be able to make sure that he never has to go through what I went through as an athlete.

And as I’ve continued to learn and work with some of the top people in this industry (especially in the area of injury prevention), I’ve come to realize that there isn’t something wrong about me that makes me injury prone.

I just got the wrong treatment and the wrong training when I was younger.

We think of “injury prone” as an inherent trait. And it’s not.

Instead, “injury prone” is actually synonomous with “improperly managed previous injury”

^^^I’m going to state that again^^^

We need to change our definition of injury prone to “improperly managed previous injury”…in many cases.

Did you know that the number one predictor of future injury is previous injury??

As a young therapist, especially with my personal history, when I learned that, that was alarming to me…like what the heck are we missing…

And the problem is that our treatment and training philosophies are too reductionist in nature. You go to most therapists and they’ll tell you…you’re glutes are weak, you need to strengthen your core, or your you need to stretch this muscle. You go to a most chiropractors and they tell your L5 vertebrae is out of place. You go to a trainer and your workouts are separated by back and biceps and chest.

You are disrespecting our creator…whoever that is to you…if you think that your body is that simple.

Movement…everything we do…it happens in patterns, not in muscles. Do you know how many different muscles have to contract and relax for me to pick a salt shaker up off of my table??

Movement occurs in patterns…

Everything we do from picking up a salt shaker to shooting a basketball is encoded as a pattern in our brain.

When you have pain, your brain rewires those patterns, in unpredictable ways around your pain. There’s a ton of research on this. Pain alters movement control in unpredictable ways.

Now let’s say you have an injury…in time ligaments and muscles will heal, swelling comes down, and you’re able to get back to doing high level activities without pain.

But while pain passes…the altered movement control maps in your brain don’t necessarily return to their original, optimized state.

So as you now continue to play and train with compensatory movement patterns…you reinforce those compensations, fall further into them, and put your body at greater risk of future injury.

Being out of pain does not mean you are 100%.

Compensation can and should be corrected with the RIGHT therapy. And even if you’ve had several injuries like myself…it’s never too late to fix things.

If you get the right treatment and training…you do not have to be injury prone!

Dr. Mike