I saw these kiddos practicing on the beach about a week ago. Actually, I see them every weekend. They pull tires, jump cones and just generally kick up a LOT of sand. Every time I see them, I think of the study that physical therapist, Andre Labbé, relayed in a continuing education course last August. Labbé teaches at Tulane University and he and his colleagues looked at the performance of varsity football teams from 5 local high schools. Four schools were from wealthy areas and one was not. They measured performance in terms of two categories. The first was a measurement of how much weight can these kids lift, how fast can they run, etc. The second measurement was a measurement of function. How quickly can they change direction, recover from a fall, rebound or avoid a tackle, etc. So, to me, the non-football player it seems the second measurement would be much more important to how the team actually plays. Who cares how much weight you can lift if you can’t scoot around a tackle and get the touchdown?
The wealthy schools excelled in the first measurement. They had all the fancy gym equipment at their schools and they used it. The kids were strong. They were fast.
The kids from the poor school didn’t fare so well on the first measurement but knocked the socks off the other schools when it came to function. Labbé spoke to the coach: “How are you doing it?” Labbé and his team expected the first measurement to correlate directly to the second measurement and it did not. Lifting more weight did not mean better performance on the field. So how were the kids that didn’t have any special equipment excel on the field? Here’s the coach’s answer:
I train the kids on the beach. First they run in the hard sand by the water’s edge, then they get moved to the soft dry sand. After that, they do drills an ankle deep in water, then knee deep.
Makes sense why these kids aren’t toppling as easily when they are getting pushed around by linebackers. They are used to it. The sea, as anyone from New Orleans will tell you, is unpredictable and won’t flinch because you might look tough.
Labbé went on to talk about the importance of working all of our post-rehabilitation clients on unstable surfaces. He even had a sandbox in his clinic for a period of time. My next studio? It’ll be on the beach. Best therapy in more ways than I had ever thought.