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April 2022 in review: preparing for contact

Throughout April we looked at team at preparing athletes for contact. Our team of contributors put together 2 new podcasts and 5 new articles on the topic from 8 contributors. Find links to both our new and archived resources on contact below.

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Rethinking body armor for contact

When it comes to contact sport, body armor is a hot topic. This makes sense: armor protects you. But there is a problem as well: in the world of physical preparation armor is shorthand for size. In the real world that is hardly the case. The best combat armor is not the biggest. There is a reason modern soldiers don’t go onto the battlefield dressed as a medieval knight. To be effective armor has to be strong. It needs to allow movement. It needs to protect the most vulnerable parts. It needs to connect to the body. Size is the least concern in most cases.

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Preparing the neck for contact

The neck takes a tremendous strain in combat and collision sports. There’s nothing worse than anticipating the impending neck pain after your first session back following a short training layoff. Backing the car out of the driveway, turning to face someone next to you, and general daily tasks become painful. We often neglect neck training, but as with any muscle, you can strengthen the neck to help increase performance and potentially reduce injury risk as well.

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Developing mobility for tackling and grappling sports

Tackling sports are dynamic and chaotic. Athletes end up bent and folded in seemingly unpredictable ways. Fortunately, the situations occur in recognizable patterns, and these repeating patterns can give us clues on how to best warm-up and prepare. The collisions and grappling requires a wide range of flexibility and mobility. If an athlete can not move into and out of these tight and jumbled postures, they will avoid them, they will not have the necessary awareness to see them, or they will be injured when they are forced into them. A well designed training program can prepare athletes for these collision positions. 

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HMMR Podcast Episode 271: Tackling and grappling (with Ollie Richardson)

Contact sports often look towards grappling sports for help in preparing athletes for contact. While there is much to be learned from grappling, there are also key differences as well. This is true when taking ideas from any sport to another, and a lesson Ollie Richardson learned first hand working in elite rugby and MMA. On this week’s podcast he shares his system for contact preparation, how it came about, and how to best adapt ideas from other sports.

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Surviving contact with the ground

My 12-year-old son plays football in a 9-a-side team. In winter, they train on an astroturf pitch that is dry but hard. This group has been injury free so far, with no ACL or hamstring injuries over the last two seasons. That was until two new recruits joined the squad last month. They managed to fall on the hard turf and injured their wrists within the first week: both required hospital visits, one wrist was fractured, the other sprained. It is no coincidence that the newest players were injured. As with other types of injuries, we cannot eliminate falling injuries, but we can help athletes prepare for them.

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Progressing to contact in training

No matter how we train, contact sports such as rugby will always have an inherent amount of injury risk. That’s part of the business when people run into each other at speed. As coaches we might not be able to eliminate that risk, but we can minimize it. This article offers a few ideas of how we can help mitigate many needless head, shoulder, and wrist injuries that occur during tackling practice and games by teaching players how to move better.

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HMMR Podcast Episode 270: Prepare for contact (with Andy Ryland)

In sports like rugby and American football there is the contact paradox. Players are bigger and collision forces continue to increase. However the amount contact allowed in training continues to decrease. So how do we prepare for something we cannot train much? Coach Andy Ryland has a few ideas. On this week’s podcast he discusses the skills involved in contact, and how to best physically prepare for them off the field.

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Rethinking conditioning for contact sports

Conditioning for team sports and contact sports has evolved a lot in recent years, but when you look around there are still some big misconceptions that many coaches cling on to. There are two points that always stand out to me: that conditioning is only about energy systems and that conditioning only comes through volume. In this article I take a look at how we can rethink these areas and share what I have implemented in rugby training sessions to address both topics. Read more

Preparing athletes for impact

Running is a staple in all rugby physical preparation programs due to players having to cover approximately 4km+ per match. However, being a collision sport, players will experience between 800-1200 impacts per game ranging from light (5-6g) to severe (10+g).1 Being well conditioned to impact is likely to reduce the risk of injury in contact and develop the ability to withstand many impacts in a match. Read more