Veteran Squash Coaches: Aging Gracefully & Staying Fit!

April 4, 2012

I am writing this post for squash coaches over the age of 50 who are finding that they are faced with an increasing number of chronic injuries.

I had a total hip replacement in November 2008 (detailed on this and two other videos). Things went pretty well – I was walking perfectly at 10 days, driving at two weeks, teaching four hours a day of tennis at six weeks, and playing length-only games with a blue dot squash ball with a “B: player at 8 weeks.

Unfortunately, about 7 months post-operation, I was feeling great and ready to go 100%. Unfortunately, I did go 100% playing one-hour competitive matches of handball (the “family” ball) and British Racketball with a member of the Princeton university Squash Team (so 30 years younger) four days in a row while coaching at the Princeton University Squash camps – and injured my back. This back injury (arthritis of S-I Joint) resurfaces when I stretch and reach for the ball during a squash match – more of less preventing me from a return to competitive squash play – ironic considering the recent hip replacement.

I just returned from Boston yesterday where I saw one of the U.S.’ top shoulder specialists, and a podiatrist who works with the Boston Celtics. Diagnosis: Posterior shoulder capsule contracture and Hallux Rigidus (basically sore shoulder and arthritic big toe). I got prescribed a new pair of orthotics and was given stretches for the shoulder (most of which I was already doing) – the good news being no operations or cortisone shots needed (yet)!

Although I have not done a lot of research on the topic, here are the adjustments I have made to my squash fitness and playing routines to keep me on court and coaching effectively.

  1. During the school year when I am pressed for time, instead of “working out”, I basically just do the Core Performance movement prep and prehabilitationas my workout – omitting the strength portion, but also doing the post-workout regeneration. Supplementing the movement prep with a set of Bosu Squats and lunges, I end up doing about 70 reps of lunges and squats, three to four times a week – a level of work which has kept my lower extremities uninjured.
  2. Blue dot squash – long tough rallies – without the injuries! I find that playing (three length only games and two regular) for about an hour with a low “B” level player allows me to get a good, squash-specific cardio workout (mean HR of 150 during play) without hurting my back, as playing with a bouncy blue dot effectively reduces the size of the court, which eliminates the emergency defensive reaching and lunging which hurts my back. Some might say that this level of ball bounce is not realistic, but I would argue that I am probably getting the same bounce that the pros get on the tour court under television lights. It is for this same reason that I train my college team (mostly beginner to “B” level players) with blue dots – why should the least skilled players have to deal with the most difficult bounces in the back of the court? My players have noticed no significant differences in transitioning back to the yellow dot, so we will use the blue dot in training right up until the week before our national championships.
  3. I now rest (if possible) two days between various types of workouts instead of ensuring one day of rest. I find that I can still improve with this pattern of training and rest.
  4. My training philosophy has gradually shifted from “intensity” to “balance”. Actually, I find that whenever I “train hard” I get another injury which puts me out of commission for at least a week – so a net training “loss”. I would suggest a 2-3% rule for Masters squash athletes, as opposed to the 10% rule used for athletes in their prime.

Application for Aging Squash Coaches;)

  1. Think “balance” not “more” (2% not 10%!).
  2. More rest between matches and workouts – more regeneration activities.
  3. Think about blue dot squash (or British Racketball) to maintain playing skills and fun – and reduce weer and tear on the body.

Squash Injuries: Ice is still the Queen!

February 12, 2011

Most squash injuries are not acute or catastrophic – mostly they are “itis'”: usually some type of tendonitis – sometimes a bursitis.  These are usually caused by an increase in training or competing volume to a level beyond the fitness preparation of the athlete.  Although the intensity of training is also a factor – most studies of high volume sports (like squash or running) point to an increase in volume (e.g., miles run per week) as the culprit.

Is Inflammation “Good” for Squash injuries?

Similar to recent sport science discussions on the benefit of stretching as part of an sport warm-up, the role of ice in managing sport injuries is a currently a hot topic.  The most recent controversy involves a scientific study that concluded that inflammation can actually speed the recovery process – the implication bringing  traditional methods of reducing inflammation, ice and NSAIDs, might not be recommended.

Read the rest of this entry »

Dealing with “Squash Shoulder”

September 18, 2010

First of all, there is not such a thing as “squash shoulder” although the field of sport medicine does have swimmer’s shoulder, tennis shoulder and pitcher’s shoulder.  Most chronic (versus an acute injury like a collision) sport shoulder pain comes from overhead throwing actions which we only do occasionally in squash – although the squash forehand is basically just a side-arm throwing action which does approximate a tennis slice serving action when volleying high balls on the forehand side (or even some serving actions).  Most squash players with shoulder pain have had previous injury in other sports or perhaps are overloading the shoulder by suddenly increasing the volume of play, perhaps in conjunction with freestyle swimming cross-training or progressing too quickly with the bench and military press in the weight room (activities not that useful for squash anyway).

The above links can be a useful guide for coaches of those squash players experiencing shoulder pain, but as always Exos offers very useful information and exercises for the shoulder area with their concept of Prehabilitation.

Here are two current handouts for a) rotator cuff (use while shoulder is stiff/painful) Rehab_Shoulder_5; and b) shoulder exercise routine labelled “Thrower’s Ten” for strengthening once pain is absent Throwers-Ten.

I was chatting yesterday with my Exercise & Sport Studies Department colleague Dr. Jim Johnson, who is himself just recovering from two shoulder surgeries.  Jim and a few other Smith College peers have just published a great, practical book which is an excellent resource for squash coaches:  Applied Sports Medicine for Coaches. I have had persistent shoulder pain myself, mostly after playing tennis, despite conscientious Core Performance training on the area.  Jim recommended I get an x-ray to rule out bone spurs.  Seeing a medical doctor is great advice for anyone whose shoulder pain continues despite rest, stretching and strengthening.

Tim Bacon, M.A., CSCS is the world’s leading expert on racquet sport science and coaching development having taught all areas of sport science as both a Lecturer at Smith College and as a Coach Developer for the Coaching Association of Canada while actively coaching (Squash Canada Level 4 Coach) and sport psychology consulting (25+ World Champions).  He currently runs his consulting practice out of Northampton, MA and maintains his active coaching as the Assistant Squash Coach at Wesleyan University during the CSA squash season (Nov. 1 – Mar. 1).


Squash Coaches: Stop the Advil!

September 9, 2009

No AdvilIf you have been around the squash world for a while,  you will have observed that we squash coaches and players treat Ibuprofen products such as Advil and Motrin (in North America) almost like candy.  We take ibuprofen after matches for soreness, before matches for aches and tightness, and sometime when we wake up, just to loosen up and be able to move around freely.  We also have somehow managed to transmit this “candy” attitude to our junior players, as I frequently see them pulling their little pill bottle out of their squash bag.

Although we have always quietly been cautioned about liver potential liver damage with unwise usage (alcohol and Advil being a particularly unwise combination applicable to squash players), recent scientific resarch is even more damning of casual usage of these products.  The New york Times has published a wonderfully concise and readable article about the effects of Advil that is highly applicable to the squash player and coach.  To make a long story short, ibuprofen can impede the body’s natural healing and recovery processes.  Read the rest of this entry »

Injured? That is NOT a reason NOT to train!

November 28, 2007

About 10 years ago at Princeton Summer Squash Camp – back in the days when it was the USSRA Junior Training Center – we had a recurring problem with “sudden-onset” overuse injuries such as ankle sprain, “tennis” elbow, rotator cuff, hamsting pull, lower back, etc. with our junior campers aged 10-18. The problem of course, was that these young players had not been near a squash court for months – and now were on court for three hours in the morning and two to three hours in the afternon! Fatigue was exposing weaknesses in their physical preparation and causing both acute injuries and chronic injuries.

As the resident mental training consultant I was assigned the task of keeping these injured athletes busy as up until my arrival they had been consigned to “watching from the stands”. Here is the checklist (can be done in any order) we developed to keep them working hard on improving their squash: Read the rest of this entry »