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Can You Self-Regulate Yourself Away from Injury Risk?

Updated: Apr 22, 2019

In a recent study published in the Scandanavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports, researchers looked to determine the impact of self-regulation on potential injury risk among tennis players. Self-regulation is the ability to control your behavior, emotions, and thoughts in pursuit of a long-term goal. For instance, are you able to monitor how you are feeling, why you act in certain ways, or how you frame life events? Are you self-aware enough to be able to examine your underlying motives or drive? And how does this relate to training or over-training?

In this study, the researchers examined five domains of self-regulation: planning, self-monitoring, evaluation, and reflection. Each of these domains relate to your ability to monitor your training load, intensity, and recovery. Theoretically, if you are not good at monitoring your internal issues, you will not be able to flirt with the line of over-training without getting burned. Not to mention that as runners we are highly likely to become exercise dependent and to rely much too heavily on our daily run. We need a healthy approach to running and life!

So, what did the researchers discover? Well the results may shock you. Of these tennis players, most are good at self-regulation, overall. However, those that were less adept at this skill were 4.6 times more likely to miss playing time due to an overuse injury. That’s right, nearly FIVE times more likely to get an overuse injury that resulted in lost time. This is a shocking result, and gives us an idea of how we can manage training and injury.

This is an eye-opening result in and of itself, but there’s another finding that the researchers discovered when they examined differences between gender. While both genders had injury risk with poor self-regulation, women were 10.8 times more likely to suffer an injury. Over ten times more likely! While the researchers do not report how or why these results seem to occur, we can take the results into consideration without understanding the true cause.

So, we’ve summarized that having reduced self-regulation can, in fact, result in a drastic increase in risk for overuse injury. But what is self-regulation on a practical level? How is this actualized in my day-to-day life? The website Very Well has published an excellent resource on self-regulation here. This article defines emotional self-regulation as the ability to control or manage disruptive or damaging emotions and impulses. Or, to think about it another way, to act in accordance and harmony with your deepest held beliefs and convictions.

From the Very Well article, self-regulation practically means taking a pausebetween emotion or impulse and your action. So, if your boss unloads on you for a problem you didn’t cause – taking the time to breathe and center yourself before responding. Or if you are trying to hit a goal pace for your training run today, and your body just isn’t having it, being able to accept that today it is just not going to happen. Then, being able to reflect on your performance later and to take a positive view of today’s “missed” training run as giving your body the freedom to not be in peak form at all times.

We can practice improving self-regulation through many different approaches. If you google self-regulation, you will have countless resources that can help. But remember – just because a method may work for you, doesn’t mean it will work for me. We are all unique and can require different approaches to reach the same goal. For instance, mindfulness or meditation can be an excellent technique for improving stress, focus, mindset, and framing of challenges.

What ways are you going to work on self-regulation? After all, we are all trying to reduce our injury risk!

Want to discuss your injury history and running? Shoot me an email and let’s talk.



Van der Sluis, A., et al. "Self‐regulatory skills: are they helpful in the prevention of overuse injuries in talented tennis players?." Scandinavian journal of medicine & science in sports (2019).


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