What is injury prevention?
No one starts off the sports season with a goal to get hurt. We start with big intentions and big expectations.
Wikipedia defines ‘injury prevention’ as:
“an effort to prevent or reduce the severity of bodily injuries caused by external mechanisms, such as accidents, before they occur”.
Before they occur.. The reality is, accidents happen – particularly in the sports setting and as a physiotherapist I regularly get asked for tips on ways to avoid injury.
What can we do about it?
My first piece of advice is that there is no single easy step and true injury prevention incorporates a number of different factors. A good place to start is to have a think about your sport or hobby and try to identify the particular injury risks associated with it. You then want to try to reduce the injury risk by preparing as well as you can for your particular sport. For example if you are going to run a marathon you don’t sit around until a month before the event, nor should you break out a bright new pair of trainers the morning of the big race!
The good news is we know that the risk of a lot of these injuries occurring can be reduced by implementing preventative strengthening, stretching and improved neuromuscular control programs. In short, talk to a physiotherapist, strength and conditioning coach or trainer for guidance.
Some other tips which can also be used to reduce the risk of injury:
- Get fit! Conditioning will keep you focussed and your muscles ready.
- Wear the right gear. Appropriate and properly fitting protective equipment!
- Use the proper technique. This should be reinforced during the playing season.
- Take breaks. Rest periods during practice and games.
- Play safe. Strict rules against headfirst sliding (baseball and softball), spear tackles (rugby), and checking (in hockey) should be enforced.
- Do not play through pain or discomfort.
- Take time off. Recovery and rest days are imperative.
So what can we take away from this?
Whether you are an elite athlete or someone trying a new sport for the first time, we are all susceptible to injuries.
Taking time to identify what injury risks are out there, and understanding your biomechanics to implement an injury prevention programme will not only improve your performance but significantly reduce your injury risk. This means at the end of the season you can prepare for the next with even greater intentions and higher expectations.