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Brian Schiff’s Blog

Injury Prevention, Sports Rehab & Performance Training Expert

Tag: sports medicine

I just returned from the Sports Physical Therapy Section’s annual conference in Las Vegas. There were plenty of great presentations from various industry leaders. I thought I would take a moment and summarize a few key points from the conference that may be helpful to clinicians and consumers alike.

The conference theme was the power of innovation. Hot topics covered were blood flow restriction therapy, cupping, dry needling, eccentric loading for tendiopathy, weighted ball training, and kinesiotaping and laser therapy to name a few. Below are some takeaways worth mentioning:

  • Blood flow restriction (BFR) training can be used to help reduce muscle atrophy after surgery, improve muscle protein synthesis and provide a way to increase strength with loads as low as 20-30% of 1RM for clients unable to tolerate heavy loading
  • BFR is not superior to nor a substitute for high intensity training (need to push weight to see best strength gains), but it can be used as an adjunct to training. It also produces an increase in IGHF1 after exercise.
  • BFR should not be used before higher intensity activities such as HIT, plyometrics, SAQ, etc.
  • Clinicians and strength coaches should consider Olympic lifting derivatives as an alternative to traditional lifts if there is concern with catch phases or biomehcanical/physical concerns. Examples include high pulls/snatch pulls instead of traditional cleans and snatches.
    Continue reading…

The News and Observer (our local paper here in the Triangle) recently ran a great story on overuse injuries in young athletes.  I firmly believe this is one of the fastest growing injuries I see in the clinic and in many cases it is preventable.  One of the biggest issues now is this commonplace idea that gifted athletes should play the same sport year-round to get ahead.

I remember growing up as a kid and playing football, basketball and baseball in the fall, winter and spring.  While AAU basketball and Legion ball existed, most kids were still playing multiple sports.  Over my 15 years as a physical therapist I have witnessed several of these one sport stars see their playing time and bodies take a hit due to injury.

The American Orthopedic Society for Sports Medicine (AOSSM) and the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons (AAOS) state that overuse injuries account for nearly half of the 2 million injuries seen among high school athletes each year.  While soccer and swimming seem to send many athletes into PT, any repetitive throwing or overhead activity bears considerable risk for an eventual shoulder or elbow problem as well.  Some of the common injuries I typically see are:

  • Patellofemoral pain
  • Shin splints
  • Rotator cuff injury
  • Bursitis
  • Shoulder instability
  • Little League elbow
Little League Elbow (medial epicondylar apophysitis)

Little League Elbow (medial epicondylar apophysitis)

These injuries are just some of the most common ones I see.  In the article, the reporter focused on baseball and throwing.  With that in mind, consider research published in the American Journal of Sports Medicine this past February from renowned surgeon James Andrews that revealed players who pitch more than 100 innings in a calendar year are 3.5 times more likely to be injured.

He goes on to say that “these injuries are the result of a system that prepares genetically gifted athletes to play at the highest levels, but eliminates most players because their bodies cannot withstand such intense activity at such an early age.”  Sadly, he told the reporter that in 1998 he performed the Tommy John procedure on 5 kids high school age or younger, while in 2008 he did the same procedure on 28 children in the same age range.  This injury is usually caused by throwing too much too soon.

Consider the following data on suggested pitch counts per game (source James Andrews, MD & Glenn Fleisig, MD):

  • 8-10 y/o = 52 plus/minus 15 pitches
  • 11-12 y/o = 68 plus/minus 18
  • 13-14 y/o = 76 plus/minus 16
  • 15-16 y/o = 91 plus/minus 16
  • 17-18 y/o = 106 plus/minus 16

Unfortunately, I can personally relate to this blog post and story.  I was a promising young pitcher up until the point I threw my arm out in travel baseball at age 13.  The pain got so bad in my arm I could barely throw a ball 10 feet.  I remember the orthopedic surgeon telling me that I could not throw again the rest of the summer.  The pain (and memory of it) was so bad I elected to focus on position play and not to pitch again until my senior year of high school.  At that point, my arm was no longer the same as I had missed three years of practice and development.  Now, I too had become one of those kids whose body was never the same.

So, as a rehab and strength & conditioning professional, I want to help educate and promote better awareness to athletes, parents, coaches, trainers, AD’s, ATC’s and anyone who is involved in the care and training of young athletes.  Fortunately, people are taking positive steps to reduce overuse injuries.  One great initiative is STOP – Sports Trauma Overuse Prevention and you can learn more by clicking here to visit their website.

In the end, we must continue to educate everyone that the old motto of “No Pain, No Gain” is NOT the way to handle overuse injuries as this mentality may ruin the careers of young athletes or lead to an otherwise preventable injury and/or premature musculo-skeletal damage.  Pain truly is a warning signal the body gives us to detect mechanical problems and make changes in our training/activity level until we sort out the cause and solution.  I hope you will join me in supporting this mission and working hard at making sports fun, safe and free of overuse injuries for young athletes of all ages in the years to come.

References – The News & Observer – May 15, 2011

A quick note for those who follow my blogs.  I have been wanting to launch two new information based platforms this year: a monthly printed newsletter and online membership site.  What I have realized is that I am so busy I will likely not get both done in 2010 as I am also working on my Fit Knees DVD series as well as running my training business.

So, I have prioritized the printed newsletter titled Brian Schiff’s Training & Sports Medicine Update.  My love and passion lies in sports medicine, injury prevention and sports performance training.  So, the newsletter will have the following components:

  • Exercise of the month – I will share pics and how to info with you
  • Sports performance – topics relevant for athletes and weekend warriors
  • Injury prevention – tips on how to stay injury free
  • Rehab – advice on how to rid yourself of aches, pains and injuries
  • Research corner – review of current pertinent research and trends
  • Q & A – ask me your own questions about training and injuries

My goal for this publication is to deliver solid up to date information for coaches, ATC’s, physical therapists, parents, weekend warriors and athletes seeking information on how to be their physical best and remain injury free.  You can see the art for the inaugural issue soon to be released below. 


For more information and to stay updated on the official launch, be sure to sign up for my newsletters at  I will be offering a special launch price to the first 100 subscribers.  I look forward to helping you stay healthy and performing optimally for many years to come.

At this phase of my career, I have been around long enough and successful (or rather blessed) enough to be considered an expert in my field.  This affords me the opportunity to see and work to fix complicated client issues as well as teach others how to do the same.

One mistake I see time and time again in rehab and sports training is a lack of sound sequential and functional progression.  I blame part of this on the demise of insurance programs as we once knew them as therapy sessions are now limited both in scope of coverage and number of visits.  But, the rest of the blame often falls squarely on the shoulders of therapists, doctors, sports performance specialists and coaches.  Okay, parents may deserve a spot in my blame circle too. 


Why do I say blame?  Well, to be honest we often mislead or let down athletes recovering from injury by not listening enough, pushing them too hard, not pushing them hard enough, using outdated or irrelevant protocols, or incorrectly assuming they will heal like the last person with injury X.  Sound at all familiar?  Ever wonder why some people with the same injury recover differently and/or suffer a re-injury so soon after going back to sport?

Now, read on as this blog post is not a rant.  The point I want to be crystal clear on is that we as caretakers and health providers of young athletes must be on our game at all times.  This means we must be willing to continually learn and drop our assumptions, standard protocols, experiences and such at the door each time we see a new case.  We must apply and adjust our plan based on each individual we see.

Ont thing I am certain of is that no two humans are exactly alike.  Therefore, we must consistently assess and re-assess.  I believe the real magic if you will that at times occurs for me with my athletes is less a result of my own doing and more a result of my intuition and ability to communicate and extract information at critical times from my clients.

You may think that this happens in every therapy clinic and sports training realm, but trust me when I say that line of thinking is naive.  I have personally heard and witnessed too many failed rehab stories and examples of lackluster care/training to validate it.  As trainers and rehab specialists, we must be willing to do the following to maximize the success of our clients:

  1. Listen to the spoken and unspoken words
  2. Observe everything (movement, emotion, and facial expressions)
  3. Encourage the athlete or client to communicate freely, frequently and most importantly honestly
  4. Craft a daily plan based 100% on how the client is doing at that very moment in time – this is tough as you may have to scrap your entire preplanned workout
  5. Challenge our own beliefs, assumptions and strategies all the time – it becomes easy to get stuck in a rut or fall back on doing the same thing for similar problems.  We must guard against complacency in our programming.  We must always seek new and better ways to do things. 
  6. Involve the athlete/client in the decision making process – in other words explain the “why” behind things and relate it to their activity, rehab or sport.  Most of the time they will work harder and cooperate more when you do this simple thing.
  7. Provide routine progress updates verbally (I call them affirmations) to the client and their family.  We all like to know how we are doing and being vague and having no clear direction or goals is simply unacceptable.  Encourage your clients and let them know how they are progressing in straightforward terms.

These are just the seven biggies that come to my mind right now.  The takeaway here is that training and rehab is and always should be exacting, yet flexible at the same time.  Fluid, seamless tweaking and adjusting are hallmarks of all the greats.  Clients should accept nothing less than this precise, analytical and results driven process, nor should we be willing to offer any less.

Following this blueprint will accelerate recovery, maximize performance gains and minimize injuries.  Isn’t that what it is all about?  Here’s to harnessing our passion and giving the absolute BEST to those we are fortunate enough to serve.