An athlete is a study of change and adaptation through the medium of movement. Movement itself is a complex interaction of structure, function, physiology and behaviour (physical, mental and emotional). The proper manipulation of these interactions determines the integrity of the connective and soft tissue. However, what is of a greater influence is inflammation. Its presence is a double-edged sword though born of movement, it in turn determines the quality of movement.
Inflammation stimulates the neural, endocrine and hormonal systems in order to repair an injury but more importantly maintain homeostasis. These systems are in direct response of and in proportion to the wear and tear (catabolism) and recovery (anabolism) of the body. In an athlete, the magnitude of the perturbation on the body, is a determinant of the size of and perpetuation of the inflammatory response.
The failure to properly contain this inflammatory response may lead to the condition known as of overloading or overtraining. I think overloading is a more appropriate term, for training is load dependent, whether the load is physical mental and emotional.
Inflammation is a basic mechanism used to repair tissue after an injury serving to remove damaged tissue in order to generate new tissue. Inflammation in large part differs by the location in the tissue, the organ where it occurs, but more importantly the nature and severity of the tissue injury (i.e., mechanical, as well as infections).
The effect of inflammation is dependent on the parameters of intensity, duration and frequency, the same guidelines used by coaches to create an adaptation in response to the demand placed on the body.
The proper manipulation of intensity, duration and frequency will determine how we can manage inflammation and the inflammatory response, expediting the recovery and regeneration of the body. This will enable the athlete to train more often but more importantly maximise their performance. If one neglects or more importantly fails to keep an eye on inflammation related to training, this will have a cumulative effect.
For instance, we are all aware of the acute response to training known as delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) which is in essence micro-trauma to the musculoskeletal system that the athlete will recover.
However, if the subsequent training program(s) are not designed to deal significantly with this small trauma, this can have resounding effects as the year progresses.
What started off as an acute response or injury to training becomes a behemoth in the form of chronic injury.
When this happens the recovery, performance and the overall well-being of the athlete is compromised. The athlete is more prone to physical injuries, as well as mental and emotional setbacks. Not surprisingly, these will create more inflammation, and the athlete finds him/herself in a vicious downward spiraling cycle. For this reason, the take home message is to be very cognizant of training and its relationship to inflammation.