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Old 11-22-2007, 08:52 PM   #1
John Tuitele
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Deadlift & low back injury

Did a search on "deadlift injury" and didn't see anything jump out that was relevant.

My background to set the stage - CF training a little over a year, CF Level 1 cert since Feb 2007, NSCA and USA Weightlifting certs for several years, PT for 20 years. Not saying I'm anywhere near as good at the 9 basic movements as I want to be, but I've got a clue.

While doing deadlifts 3 days ago, and with couple of guys I train watching my form, felt a twinge in low back, left side in the initial stage of lowering the weight back to the ground: probably the first 20 degrees of moving from full extension. Dropped the weight immediately. Weight was 205, nowhere near my PR (275#). Shut me down that night - did ice, rest and meds, and 3 days later everything is almost back to pain free and almost full motion. My seat of the pants self-diagnosis is some sort of SI strain/sprain - it went from painful to nuisance in 48 hours.

As I review in my head what may have brought on the injury, two things come to mind:

1. I slept fitfully the night before, probably got 4 hours total sleep, and that lack of freshness may have played a role.
2. I had ramped up to the lift with a 10/8/6/4/2 set warmup with lesser weights using the overhand grip with thumbs locked, adding 10 lbs a set until I made it to a single rep set. This was my first single rep lift. For some reason, I decided to shift my grip to the alternate grip (one palm facing in, one palm facing out) for this lift, and perhaps I may have twisted my trunk because of this grip?
3. Random luck of the draw - I simply sustained an injury, it happens, and there's no real correlation to anything I could have done differently.

With all that said, I'm interested in hearing if anyone else has experienced a back injury with a shift to a different grip while deadlifting?

Thanks.
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Old 11-23-2007, 03:57 AM   #2
Anthony Bainbridge
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Re: Deadlift & low back injury

I doubt it's directly related to the grip, but perhaps indirectly. Some people will shift one side forward ever so slightly when using a mixed grip. That, combined with a momentary lapse in tightness on the return could be the reason. Next time you go mixed, try to line your feet along the edge of a mat and see if your instinct is to move one foot forward an inch or so.

I remember reading something about how the stabalizing muscles all contract in the same manner regardless of grip (one side doesn't contract more, there's no need to balance things out, etc) ... but I'm sure there are equal amont of coaches/scientists on the other side of the coin saying the opposite.

Hope you get well soon!
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Old 11-23-2007, 05:52 AM   #3
Corey Duvall
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Re: Deadlift & low back injury

The only direct connection from grip changes to the low back would be the latissimus. The internal and external rotation of the arms would change the pull on the latissimus... however I can't imagine what the actual mechanism of injury would be.
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Old 11-25-2007, 08:14 AM   #4
William Hunter
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Re: Deadlift & low back injury

Let me preface this post by saying I have never seen this exact mechanism of injury, and that with your experience in the gym I would place blame on all 3 of the reasons you listed, plus perhaps the grip. I tend to trust the instinct of the trainee with experience.

However, as pertaining to your grip...Corey is right about the lat being the major connecting piece between the upper arm/shoulder and the low back. There is currently a lot of musculoskeletal/fascial research being done in the form of specialized dissections to find some of these "body-wide fascial slings" that play a prominent role in all of the favorite CF movements, DL included. Fascia is the predominent connective tissue in the human body, and lends continuity and coordination where a muscle from point A to B, and another from B to C, could never give. Fascia helps the body work together as a unit.

One such "sling" involves not only the lat as it traverses from the upper humerus to the pelvic crest, but it keeps moving across the body in an 'x' fashion, taking in the lumbosacral fascia, the opposite gluteal muscles, tensor fascia lata/ITB from the hip down to the knee. Theoretically when you load up your right arm by grabbing the barbell on the floor, the tension is dispersed downward and across your body and anchored to the outside of the opposite knee. Perhaps your altered grip changed the tension from one side to the other. Perhaps there's some underlying glitch/adhesion in the SI area that got exposed by the alteration in tension/change in grip? Maybe you just needed more sleep

Anyway I thought I'd just throw this out there. Some might call you crazy for thinking that, but I think it's possible. In October I attended a Fascial Research Congress at Harvard Medical School, where there were some ridiculously smart people there presenting their findings regarding biomechanics. One PhD anatomist, Dr. Willard, showed slides of his dissections, where he was purposely leaving these slings intact (instead of cutting right through them to get to the organs, spinal cord etc). Another guy, who works with a lot of professional athletes in Europe, bases a lot of his lumbopelvic work on these body wide connections. For a guy like me it was fascinating stuff!

I pass this along for your mental amusement. Sorry if this was complete overkill.
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Old 11-25-2007, 02:52 PM   #5
John Tuitele
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Re: Deadlift & low back injury

William - not overkill at all, good reminder.

As I've thought over this and watched progression of the injury healing up, I've come to these seat of the pants conclusions:

I'm pretty sure I was rotated because of the alternate grip. Certainly, with one humerus being externally rotated and the other being internally rotated, there were different tensions on the two side of the lats. As I shifted from concentric to eccentric action, I'm guessing the change in direction and different grips played a role in tweaking my SI area. I felt it more in the region of the multifidis, but all the SI provocation tests were positive and the SI manips created longer lasting spells of relief.

With all that being said, two years ago this same kind of pain would have taken me out of normal movement for a week or two. As of Friday, I was moving pretty much pain free and almost full range. Today it is as if the problem wasn't there in the first place.

What I'm taking away from the incident is this:

1. Injuries are going to happen. They are a nuisance and require patience to allow them to recover. Rest week is another form of varying the training stimulus!
2. Injuries recover a heckuva lot faster than they did before I was training at this intensity.
3. I'm in love with the hook grip for deadlifts. No more alternate grip.
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Old 11-25-2007, 04:12 PM   #6
Aileen Reid
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Re: Deadlift & low back injury

William - thanks, interesting. Reminds us how holistically we need to be thinking.

What was that song about the thighbone conected to the ..... :-)
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