Performance & Injury Prevention in Javelin Throw
BY BEKAH WALTON
To the naked eye, javelin is a destructive event. To the knowledgeable observer, it is even more dangerous. Watching in slow motion might even be worse; the body seems to hit unnatural positions, which require injury.
WHAT ARE THE BASIC SKILLS FOR JAVELIN THROW?
The fundamental technical requirements of the javelin throw require the athlete to run side-on for the latter part of the throw. Following the runoff, the thrower remains side-on when the back leg lands and uses the rotation of the hips to plant the block leg, all whilst the chest remains side-on to the throw. This is known as the power position. To a novice, it looks unnatural and perilous if you were to take a screenshot at this position. But, it is these crucial positions that prevent injury.
Performance and injury come hand in hand in javelin throwing. The measure of performance is simple – how far you can throw the implement. But performance can come with a cost. If the correct positions aren't hit, the forces of the throw can be transferred to the body instead of the javelin. Dependent on the weakness in the technique, this can affect injuries. For example, I struggle with front delt tightness in my throwing shoulder. This is a consequence of the harmful separation I create between myself and the javelin on delivery which results in the javelin landing on the right-hand side of the sector. Consequently, the load is delivered to my front delt instead of my lat, leading to tightness.
THE COMMON INJURIES OF JAVELIN THROW
Unfortunately, injuries are sometimes unavoidable, particularly for a developing athlete still navigating the event. No one is the perfect thrower, not even at the elite level, so there is no such thing as waiting to throw until everything is position perfect. In fact, improvements in technique can also lead to injury. When hitting a new position that the body isn't used to, the load can be transferred to a weaker area, as it is not trained to absorb the load. Even if the area is strong, it can come as a shock and still feel painful.
It feels so far as if I have only described javelin as a destructive event. I can't deny this. But, you can take many steps to avoid injury in the first place or recover from injury quicker. It is pretty much possible to injure every part of your body. The most common injuries for javelin throwers are shoulder, elbow and back. This is usually where technical flaws are most common and where forces are diverted due to poor technique. The first step in avoiding injury is addressing the technical model and ensuring the technique is as robust as possible. It is imperative the elbow is always higher than the shoulder when throwing the implement to avoid elbow pain. It would help if you also threw the javelin over the top with the core engaged to prevent any load from distributing negatively through the back or shoulder.
HOW TO BEST PREVENT INJURIES BEFORE JAVELIN COMPETITIONS
You should also incorporate prehab exercises throughout the training programme. This is a great way to address any weaknesses within the body to prevent any injuries later on. This may only be 20 to 30 minutes of weekly exercises that focus on the strength of the specific area. For example, I have previously had hip niggles, which I have addressed by strengthening the hip. These exercises can be very tedious, but you can take inspiration from what you see on social media.
RECOVERY TRAINING FOR JAVELIN THROWERS
Unfortunately, injury is sometimes unavoidable despite having an excellent technical model and performing rehab exercises. Now, the focus has to shift to recovery. As my Top Tips blog mentioned, recovery is a significant part of the training programme. When injured, the recovery process gets more specific. The first step in the recovery programme is to find the root of the problem.
Often, the area where the athlete experiences pain is not necessarily the cause of the pain. An impingement in the elbow can be caused by tightness through the neck, for example. A specialist, such as a sports massage therapist or physio, can help you find this. They will then work through the area to remove any tightness and may give you exercises to help address the injuries that have caused the problems. It's super important to be patient at this point in the injury and take a step back from throwing to ensure you fully recover. Rushing back to throw is likely only going to worsen the problem. Only when given the green flag to go by a specialist is when you should return.
There's no denying that javelin throw is a brutal event on the body. When performed by a professional, the forces produced are equivalent to a minor car crash. But, the destructive forces are manageable. By working hard to create a sound technical model and allocating time to work on the body's weaknesses, injury can be mostly avoidable.
ABOUT BEKAH WALTON
Originally a netballer, Bekah quickly discovered a talent for javelin throwing, and hasn't looked back since.
Bekah is a British Champion and now has her eyes set on Commonwealth and Olympic glory!