Lake Martin, wakeboarding and overcoming the injuries.

May on Lake Martin is a wonderful time to be behind the boat.  School gets out at the later part of the month, the water is pretty chilly at the beginning of the month but by late May, It’s perfect, not to cold… refreshing on a hot day and we get to put the neoprene away.  I do keep my heater top around for the occasionally cold morning session, but all in all, it’s my favorite time of the year for water temps.   Since the water is up to full pool and we’ve got the warm water and of outside temps; boats are getting brought out of hibernation.  It’s time to knock the rust off get out and ride.  The first rides of the year can really be tough for a few reasons.  No matter how hard you train, from the crazy crossfit to free weights to pushing your own weight around. there is no substitute or way to replace the action of pulling against a boat.  I’ve tried quite a few ways over the coarse of my life and even when I thought I came in to a season tip top condition, the first day left my body extremely sore.  Now let’s be clear, I’m not saying all the hard work doesn’t pay off, it’ will give you the ability to ride longer and have more strength to pull harder at the wake or pull the handle in for a pass.  Training in the off season is a great thing, we need to do it.  There are some different groups of large muscles ( i have no idea their name as i didn’t take anatomy/physiology) that are used to maintain balance and allow us to weight and un-weight correctly.  Starting from the pull and continuing to the landing, from wake to wake. Those muscles seem to acknowledge the enormous amount of effort to do what it is we do early season.  It’s like anything else, repetition will make you better, and stronger.  Last month our editor did the article on some tricks to learn and how to execute them.  If those tricks or variations of any of them are your goal this year to learn and become consistent at landing, then it’s time to start preparing.  If you’ve been training great, if not, start now, it’s not to late.  There are some great tools out there that lots of us don’t think about using like the indo board.  It will help you work on your balance, core strength and leg strength.  When you surf for instance, you are squatted down for long periods of time, which is taxing on the quads, the INDO board will help there, so will wall sits (tons of variations with balance balls etc)  The core strength is something that I couldn’t stress enough is beneficial for our wake sports.  Everything happens with initiation from the core of the body, the feet touch the board, strapped to it or not, but if the core isn’t stabilized, the feet and board are doomed. The problems that I have encountered in my years on the water have been from lack of strength, falling at the end of sessions when i was tired and wouldn’t stop.  Be smart, if your done, rest and ride again later.  Forcing a trick at the end of the day can put you on the sideline for the entire season.  I trashed my ankle memorial day of last year.  My body was not conditioned for last years tricks so early in the season.  One minute i’m having a little fun on my wakeskate, the next i missed my landing on my frontside big spin.  I did a split.  I’ve done plenty of them over the years, but this time I fell a little different and my foot wouldn’t release from the skate.  I folded in half…sideways and I got a nice high ankle sprain,  That was the start of a long journey to rebuilding that ankle, one  i’m still on.  I’m lucky, we all are actually that Lake Martin has a new Orthopedic surgeon, one that specializes in fixing just the injuries we tend to get.  If you’ve heard the term sports medicine, you’ve probably heard the name Dr. James Andrew’s from Birmingham and guess what, that’s where Dr. Martha George did her sports fellowship training!  She completed her orthopedic residency at UAB, and did a year long fellowship strictly dedicated to treating sports injuries… plus she wakeboards!  I spoke with Dr. George about the wakeboarder’s typical injuries and asked if she could give us a little guidance on preventing or strengthening these vulnerable areas.
Dr Martha George is now practicing  with Dr. Paul Goldhagen of the Bone & Joint Specialists in Alexander City, she writes –

Wakeboarding is a demanding sport. It requires a significant amount of skill, athleticism and balance. The difficulty of this sport can also cause it to be a dangerous one. There are many wakeboarders injured throughout the year. Due to this, I believe that injury prevention is key. The most common injuries associated with wakeboarding , other than head injuries, include ACL tears, shoulder dislocations and ankle sprains.

The joints of the upper and lower extremities are supported by two different types of stablizers: dynamic and static. The term dynamic describes a structure that can change length or shape. These would include the muscles surrounding the joints. Static refers to a structure that remains in a fixed position or one that cannot change. These structures include the ligaments within or around each joint that prevent abnormal movement s or injuries. In order to prevent injury to the static stablizers it is important to strengthen the dynamic stabilizers about that joint.

With regards to the knee, the ACL, or anterior cruciate ligament, is the major static restraint to anterior translation of the tibia in regards to the femur as well as rotational stability. One of the ways to decrease the risk of injury to this ligament is to strengthen the dynamic stabilizers surrounding the knee. The muscle group most concentrated on is the quadriceps group. To strengthen your quadriceps you can incorporate exercises such as straight leg raises, leg extensions, squats and leg press into your workout regimen. Other muscle groups crossing the knee joint and contributing to stability include the hamstrings and the gastrocnemius/soleus complex. The strength of these can be improved by performing leg curls and calf raises, respectively. Another technique that can help prevent injury to the ACL is neuromuscular training. This is the practice of training your body to control how your muscles react during an activity. This would include practices such as teaching wakeboarders how to land jumps with their knees bent rather than straight given that the ACL has a significantly higher amount of stress applied to it with the knee in extension rather than flexion.

The dynamic stabilizers of the shoulder include the periscapular muscles and the rotator cuff muscles. Strengthening of these muscles can help in prevention of a shoulder dislocation. Posture training is important in strengthening the muscles surrounding the scapula, or shoulder blade. This helps to position the scapula appropriately which in turn improves the position and motion of the shoulder.  The strength and endurance of the rotator cuff muscles can be improved by including exercises such as the Thrower’s Ten program in your daily routine. This program includes external and internal rotation exercises as well as abduction, rowing, presses and pushups.

And lastly, prevention of ankle sprains can also be improved by this process of dynamic stabilizer strengthening. The common “low” ankle sprain describes an injury to the lateral ligaments of the ankle including the ATFL (anterior talofibular ligament) and CFL (calcaneofibular ligament). The “high ankle sprain” describes an injury to the syndesmosis which maintains integrity between the two bones of the lower leg, the tibia and fibula. Stretching and strengthening of the peroneal muscles can improve stability of the ankle and thus help to decrease the risk of these sprains. The peroneal muscles and tendons run over the outer or lateral aspect of the ankle and allow the foot to turn outwards. Eversion exercises of the ankle improve strength and endurance of this muscle group.

Again, wakeboarding is an intense sport. Unfortunately, some of the injuries sustained during this activity are inevitable. But, incorporating these exercises into your daily workout routine will improve the strength and endurance of those major muscle groups which increase the dynamic stability of your joints. And this can ultimately decrease your risk of injury to these joints.