Several months ago I wrote an article for Bass Guitar Magazine on load management for bassists, as time has passed and I own the copyright for the article I am now able to release the article in full online here with some additional information, enjoy.
Load management is considered one of the most important aspects of injury prevention in sports medicine; in fact weekend conferences have been dedicated to this one topic. It sounds fancy but it’s actually fairly straightforward to understand and just requires some common sense and planning ahead to be potentially very effective for the amateur or professional bassist.
What’s the idea:
Medical scientific literature describes “load” as the amount of effort or strain going through the body over a period of time (seconds/minutes/hours/days/weeks etc), this is individual to each person and depends on what we do with our bodies. It shouldn’t be hard to comprehend that when you suddenly drastically increase the load going through your body (a lot more than it is used to) in a short period of time or over a longer period of time without sufficient rest, then you are more likely to develop aches and pain (ref). Anyone who has done a HIT exercise session after doing bugger all for three weeks can attest to this, and has also been proven by (some secretly sadist) scientists on athletes. It does not guarantee that an injury can occur, but the higher the sudden increase in load compared to normal, the higher the risk of injury. Also the symptoms may not come on straight away, and may be as long as four weeks before any symptoms are noticed. Hence trying to monitor and control the “load” to reduce the risk of injury has become very popular.
The current evidence:
Research to date has primarily focused on team sports such as football and rugby, as of December 2017 I haven’t found any looking at individual sports, or in any musicians. Researchers have revealed that in seasons where workload has been planned, monitored and adjusted for an athlete to avoid a “spike” in their load, they generally had much lower injury rates compared to in seasons when they did not (ref). Research into adjustment of load demands has yet to be done in musicians, though this one paper so far suggests that a sudden increase in playing demand and intensity was correlated with an increased amount of injuries at a music training camp (ref).
So how can I monitor and manage my own load to reduce my injury risk?
You’ll be glad to hear that it does not require a team of scientists or expensive equipment – a pen and paper or the notes section on your phone will probably do. Amount of time (minutes) multiplied by perceived level of exertion (how physically straining an activity was) using simple maths has been shown to be more effective and accurate than measuring any bodily fluid or pressure. The best way to transfer this would be for any practice, performance or exercise session; document how long this lasted in minutes (e.g. 60) and how strenuous you found it out of 10 (0 being no effort, 10 being fully wiped out), multiply them together to get a number. You can add these scores together to get daily, weekly and beyond combined scores. The table shown below is just an example and obviously each individual is different.
If you are planning on increasing the amount you are practising and performing for the first time or after prolonged time off, it should be done slowly over time, hence the increases in scores over each week should be small.
If you know that you are going to have to practice/perform a lot in a short period of time over a week or month, then give yourself more time off around those times so your tissue can recover without overloading.
Like I said, it’s common sense and just requires some organisation. If you can get this right, your injury risk will fall.
Have a nice day,