Training Insights, Applications, and an Interview About Improved Landing Impacts
What goes up must come down
The landing impact metric in the VERT Team System has become, to many programs, equally as important as jump count. While jump count is used primarily for load management, landing impact is there to add more detail into planning those jump loads in a more individualized manner; it adds some critical nuance to practice planning.
For those unaware of this metric, landing impact is represented by the peak acceleration registered by the sensor around the athlete’s waist (roughly under the belly button) upon landing from a jump. With over 4.5 years of data, we are able to categorize that landing as low, medium, high, or alert. The landing provides immediate insight into how well the athletes are attenuating or absorbing that landing force from the floor up to their center of mass. Is the athlete landing stiffly and putting unwanted stress on the hips and back, or are they cushioning the blow, spreading the wealth of that impact?
The most common question we receive, especially at the collegiate level, as it pertains to landing impact: “How much can we change their landing at this stage in their careers?”
As you might imagine, that depends. Some athletes are so set in their motor patterns that getting their landing to change is a rather daunting task. However, there have been countless occasions where programs, with time and patience, have been able to improve athlete landing dramatically. Part of that process is getting athletes to understand the issue, and having real-time data that can be trended over time helps provide both motivation and validation. In the end, any improvement is worth working towards, as getting an athlete to improve landing impact by even 5% is a win. Oftentimes we would see improvements during practice but harder landings again during matches. This wasn’t something we would tell our teams to be too concerned with, given cumulatively, the athlete was diminishing the overall impact from landings and NOT thinking about it during games…which is what we want. Don’t think; just play.
In the end, what we’ve found to be most effective is awareness. Use the spring to really have your athletes thinking about landing, developing those good landing habits that can play a massive role in extending their careers for as long as they’d like to play this game.
As always, our team is here to discuss, both with clients and non-clients alike, best practices for helping athletes land to the best of their ability. A small change here can have a drastic impact on their health and longevity.
Objectively measuring landing can help coaches teach and adapt training loads.
Understanding an athlete lands poorly isn’t much help if we don’t know how to use that information to inform training in a manner that decreases the likelihood of injury.
We’ve already talked about working on the mechanics of the landing and improving it over time, but the landing impacts can also inform your jump count for particular players. The jump goal for a practice with a particular position group may be 115, but with one of your players dealing with some back pain (due potentially to their hard landings), coaches can either decrease their jumps to help manage the pain or isolate the movements that cause more stress and dramatically limit, or even remove those reps for the set period of time.
For example, recently, a setter on one of our VERT teams had been struggling with lower back pain. Through viewing her game data overlaid with DVW files, VERT stats, and video (thank you DVMate), we were able to isolate a particular type of set that had a significantly higher landing impact. Now, rather than have the athlete sit out and miss critical development time in the Spring, the coaching staff will be minimizing the reps of the particular set that’s causing the most impact. We will monitor to see if this relieves the back pain, then slowly and strategically reintroduce the move to build back her capacity.
The ability to isolate the movements that lead to harder landings and track landing impacts over the course of a match will be yet another insight for helping coaches better plan training to ensure optimal player health and performance.
Professor Bob Enck, St. John Fisher University, discusses how their program improved landing impacts during the season.