Posted October 28, 2010 – 3:53 pm in: Uncategorized
Many, if not most, fencing coaches use a variety of games as part of their regular training sessions. A significant issue in the use of games is safety. A study of injuries in all sports suggests that approximately 60% of sports injuries occur in practices. This suggests that activities in practice deserve extra scrutiny for their injury potential. A study by the Akademie der Fechtkunst Deutschlands have identified games in warm-up and conditioning as a primary source of season ending injuries in fencing.
Some of this hazard results from the use of inherently dangerous games. In one example one fencer is in the center of a circle of other fencers. The way out of the center is to lunge landing on the front foot of one of the other fencers. Landing from a full power lunge on another fencer’s foot seems like a fun activity that builds reaction speed, but is it worth the inevitable case of fractures to the bones of the foot? Now ask that same question in the context that landing on the opponent’s foot in two of the three weapons is a yellow card corps-a-corps.
But even games that are identified as safe can be dangerous. At a professional conference for fencing coaches one of the presenters had the attendees playing a game that was identified as safe, but difficult. One of the participants fell, suffered a concussion, and essentially was unable to participate in the fencing activities of the remainder of the conference due to brain injury. And that was a safe, fencing specific activity.
Activities that are not fencing specific become even more problematic. Ball games (basketball, soccer, etc.) are a popular warm-up activity. In a case reported in the weekly academic newspaper, The Chronicle of Higher Education, a fencer suffered a serious concussion in a ball game during fencing team practice. This required absence from the sport and a prolonged recovery over two months with rehabilitation, and caused significant academic issues for the athlete. The fencer was able to return to the sport, but reported that in the direct elimination rounds of tournaments his brain would just shut down leaving him unable to think tactically. And yes, the next year he suffered another traumatic brain injury that sidelined him. If you guessed that injury came as a result of concussion received while playing the same ball game as part of fencing practice, you guessed correctly.
And some games are psychologically dangerous. For years we played slap the hand. Then one day we realized that some of our fencers were far too into the game and were enjoying physically punishing the younger fencers with brutal slaps. The game encourages hitting, and that hitting became a way to haze people who were not in the in-clique.
This means that you, as an athlete, have a responsibility to keep yourself safe. If a game is part of practice, and this game seems unsafe (or, even if safe otherwise, is unsafe in the practice area), decline and express your concern. It makes absolutely no sense to suffer a season ending injury in a game that contributes little or nothing to your readiness to fence.
As a coach you have a different set of responsibilities. For any game you need to carefully consider the injury potential and balance that against the training value. There are four criteria to consider:
(1) is the game safe in and of itself?
(2) is the game safe in our practice area (floor, walls, pillars, etc. may convert a safe game into a dangerous one)?
(3) is the game fencing specific? Does it develop skills and movement patterns that are used in fencing?
(4) is there a better way to achieve the same training outcomes with less risk?
A “no” vote on any one of the first three criteria or a “yes” vote on the last criteria should raise questions. Notice that none of these criteria asks whether you like the game, whether other people use it, and whether your first coach used it. Games that you played when you were a college fencer are not necessarily safe just because you do not remember anyone being injured.
A game that is highly fencing specific, mirroring actions and stimuli that fencers will encounter in the bout, that provides training that is not available otherwise, and that has low injury potential, is an easy choice for inclusion in your training program. On the other hand, touch football, with few if any shared movement patterns and stimuli and with a very high injury potential, is an automatic choice for exclusion.
Walter Green is a Maitre d’Armes (Fencing Master) certified by the Academie d’Armes Internationale. He teaches modern competitive and classical fencing, historical swordplay, bayonet fencing, and Asian martial arts swords at Salle Green ( http://www.sallegreen.com ), the fencing school he operates in Glen Allen, Virginia. Maitre Green also trains fencing coaches through the Pan American Fencing Academy ( http://panamfencing.com ). He serves as a Head Examiner for the certification of professional fencing coaches for the United States Fencing Coaches Association, and chairs the USFCA’s Club Committee.No Comments | Tags: Posted April 13, 2010 – 2:46 pm in: Products
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