Lagging and Leading Indicators of Injury

Regardless of how you define fitness, it should be sustainable. If you are a runner you should be able to run for years without getting injured. Limping across the finish line hurts your body and it doesn’t always properly heal. When you rely on the task completion model: e.g. finish the marathon… you can be doing lasting damage to your body. Your joints have a life span… protect them. All joints have a normal range of motion, if yours don’t move through the full range, your ability to do things like play soccer or run will be comprised leading to injury. Working out hard without being able to work to the end ranges of an exercise leads to injury.


The human body is resilient, but eventually poor movement leads to injury. Practice doesn’t make perfect – practice makes permeant. Our body can buffer problems for a long time, but eventually poor movement leads to injury.


Poor is a poor indicator of positioning. When your body is moving at high intensity, our brain’s shut off pain. Often people experience pain when they are sleeping, because when you are not moving pain signals can run. Add to that the idea that people are coached to ignore pain.

Lagging indicators:

Once you feel these you are already having problems.  Many people will then go to the doctor. Pain is an indication that you’ve done something wrong, sometimes it’s too late.

Lagging indicators include Swelling, Tingling, Decrease in force production, Decrease in range of motion

Leading indicators:

Feedback that you can evaluate in real time, before you have pain.  Position and movement show a problem before it becomes an issue. If there is a compensation in function (e.g. rounded back), it leads to pain.  Correct the position, prevent the pain.

Leading indicators are improper position or recruitment during an exercise.

Four categories of skeletal problems

  1. Pathology: is the study of diseases. There are many problems that present as a conditioning or strength issue that can be caused by disease. Blood cancer, heart disease, disk disease, etc. Common questions to ask include: numbness, tingling, bladder problems, chest pressure, etc.
  2. Accidents: car accident, bullet wound, impact injury from football, etc.
  3. Life Habits: wearing high heels all day, sleeping on your arm, typing at keyboard all day.
  4. Improper Exercise: Moving with incomplete range of motion, utilizing improper form, or recruiting the wrong muscles during an exercise.

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