Why accuracy is more important than speed

Most activities require movement of the muscles, bones and joints. All movements require muscles, bones and the nervous system to work well independently, co-ordinate with each other effectively and dependably produce movement patterns that are effective and efficient.

Prevention of injury is a bit of a paradox. How can one prevent an accident or an injury from happening when the very nature and definition of an accident is such that one cannot prevent it?  However, one can do a lot to reduce the likelihood of such incidents.
Before we dwell on the process of reducing the likelihood of injury, we should understand the phases of development that children and adults who actively pursue sports go through.

Acquisition phase: In this phase the body is introduced to a movement pattern that is new to its normal movement pattern. Whenever introduced to a new pattern of movement, our movements become deliberate, conscious, segmental (as opposed to fluid movement patterns) and uncoordinated. Movement learning, be it in tennis or salsa, is primarily learnt by the correct recruitment of the neural circuitry, which is guided by the input mechanisms (five senses) and executed by the muscular effort on the joints.

Movement teaching must be well sequenced. For example, to teach a front foot shot in cricket, many coaches make the mistake of teaching kids the forward defense first rather than teaching them a straight drive. This partial execution tends to affect the spinal musculature adversely, leading to compounded strain on the hamstrings, gluteals and lower back muscles. This tends to adversely affect the soft bones of children.

In adults whose skeletal maturity is complete, learning salsa or a tennis serve needs to carry the same sensitivity as that tabled for children.  The neural circuitry in adults is far less malleable, so new movement patterns need to be sequenced correctly.

For example, an adult who has taken up tennis after being a couch potato should not be taught to serve a forehand first. Instead she should be encouraged to learn to catch tennis balls in a forehand position or learn to throw balls overhead to simulate a forehand posture or a serve posture.This is an important step because it lays down new wiring for correct, effective and efficient movement and reduces the episodes of muscle spasms.

Movement consolidation phase: In this phase the body is trying to co-ordinate and consolidate two or more discrete movements. For example, in a tennis serve, the ball toss is one movement pattern, followed by overhead racquet movement, followed by contact of racquet with the ball, followed by and ending with follow through. In the acquisition phase these movements are in themselves new movements. In the consolidation phase, there are two or more discrete movements that are executed together. For example, the toss of the ball is coupled with taking the tennis racquet to ‘ready’ position and moving the body weight from front foot to back foot. This seemingly easy movement is a motor control and co-ordination nightmare for the body. Learners face an uphill task to toss the ball and simultaneously get the racquet to ready position whilst simultaneously trying to shift weight and centre of gravity and focus their eyes on the ball.

This poses several challenges. The first and most common mistake that happens now is the learner become very goal- oriented. She begin to use muscles, joints and movement patterns that are unnatural to her structure, so she  injures them in the process or uses them inappropriately and suffers an injury later on.

Purposeful movement execution phase: In this phase the motor control system of our body directs our movements towards fulfilling a particular task, be it dancing to music, serving an ace, hitting a backhand cross court, driving a cover drive between two fielders etc.  

The task is not movement alone but effectiveness of the movement. To make movement effective is very different from making movement efficient.

In pursuit of effective movement, initially efficiency suffers, because there is only so much we must focus on.  However, if by sacrificing efficiency we are able to effectively execute a purposeful movement pattern, then that pattern is what gets memorised.
This trade off between effectiveness and efficiency creates a situation where the body can fall prey to injury.

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