When an issue becomes an epidemic we must discuss. It's not time to sweep this under the rug like some may attempt. I'm going to give you my perspective on the rash of injuries and hopefully answer some questions people could have. Barbell Spin posted an article yesterday listing over 23 confirmed pectoral injuries.
This was my first thought and most obvious to me. Most athletes aren't doing their Ring Dips in training with long straps as used at Regionals competition. The longer rings make the movement much more unstable and harder to control. A lot of athletes also complain about the standardized width of the rings. While both could play a role, I definitely don't blame those standards or the equipment set up. Athletes should train with these standards more often and practice them routinely in my opinion. The ring width is standardized in competitive gymnastics and those athletes use rings hung from much higher heights therefore we should all find some standard similar to practice in our training.
Muscular structure fatigue
This is easily the biggest problem in my opinion. This year’s Events involved a massive amount of unilateral stabilization and particularly overhead with a Dumbbell. The problem here is even the most prepared athletes aren't ready for this amount of volume in that position. The surrounding skeletal muscle of the shoulder girdle becomes over used and taxed, creating weaker and more vulnerable position which increases the risk of injury.
The argument about it only being Day 1 of Regionals and these athletes should be fine is completely ridiculous to me, especially for all of the Week 1 injuries. Why? It's simple, each Event details were released just over a week before the competition weekend started. With these workouts most athletes likely ran through all of the events the weekend prior to see how things would play out. I can personally tell you that I did this run through the weekend prior to the competition. My upper back and chest were extremely sore from the workouts which was expected. My shoulders continued to hurt a few days later, while uncomfortable, did not concern me. I had no concern about injury going into the weekend and felt it was going to be very taxing on my upper body but still very doable. The only issue I overlooked was doing these workouts again less than a week after all the testing and the stress it put on my body under competition setting. This exact amount of volume and stress was put on all the other athletes if not more in their own training. There comes the whole problem, the most fatigued muscles never recover from the training and event testing which leaves athletes in a compromised state while competing.
Could this have been prevented? Absolutely, and that's the upsetting part. Could we have gotten the workouts early and had more time to prepare? Sure, but that hasn't been the norm in the past and I completely understand not getting the details of the events earlier. A small warning about the volume of using the Dumbbell overhead could have possibly sufficed to help the athletes prepare.
The only really good solution is a change to the programming. This is not my bias opinion as an athlete good with a barbell. This is my opinion as a Coach in this sport for 6 years. This year’s programming will go down as the worst set of events prescribed to date. The list of athletes with a strain/torn Pectoral will continue to grow with one more week of competition to come. Please, as athletes take my advice to give the over used skeletal muscle of the shoulder girdle some time to recover coming into the competition and in the time after.
The one nobody wants to talk about publicly. I've heard this from many friends in the community and while there could be some validity to the argument. I don't want to accuse any of the athletes of using illegal substances. Yes, the bigger the muscle belly and its contractile potential means the higher risk for injury. And that answers another question I have heard about why no women have withdrawn with a similar injury. They physiologically don't have the same skeletal muscular structure in their Pectorals and have less risk of injury.
I write this piece with a bitter taste in my mouth after watching one of the best athletes be forced to withdraw from competition after Event 5 costing him an all but guaranteed trip to the games. So many other athletes lost their chance to compete at the Games. An opportunity they trained for all year and much longer, because one man went on an ego trip in an attempt to send a message. Well, message received Sir, you put all the athletes at high risk just to prove a point and all you proved was that you made a mistake and a small disaster out of one of the best times of the year.