Before we look at how to prevent sports injuries, ask yourself a couple of quick questions:
- Do you play sport?
- Have you ever been injured?
If you answered yes to number one, then I’m guessing you answered yes to number two too!
Unfortunately injury is part of playing sport – there’s is nothing more frustrating than standing injured on the sideline watching your team play.
We can’t help you avoid that double foot slide tackle or hospital pass on the pitch, but what we can do is give you some useful hints and tips to help you stay injury free. In any case, prevention is always better than cure!
First and foremost, if you want to stay injury free you need to get enough sleep and quality rest.
Now this may seem obvious or even just common sense, but as we all know, it’s incredibly easy to miss out on the 8 hours quality sleep you need every night.
For whatever reason, work, social or stress, slacking on sleep can easily become a bad habit. We’ve all been there and it’s not pretty — do your body a favour and give it the rest it needs!
It is during sleep that your body has the greatest chance to recover, rebuild and grow. It’s also vital for your hormone balance: growth hormone increases while you sleep, whilst Cortisol (a stress hormone which prevents muscle growth) decreases.1
Check out our dummies guide to hormones if you want to understand these in more detail.
Common over training injuries are tendonitis (including tennis elbow), shin splints and sore lower backs. All of these are simply overuse injuries and will need time and a reduced work load to recover, but there are still some simple things you can do to help avoid and manage them.
Typical Cause: Excessive weight lifting or explosive exercise e.g. jumping.
Treatment: Rest and long isometric contractions2 e.g. hold a deep squat whilst holding onto something.
Shin Splints & Back Pain
Typical Cause: Change in training surface e.g. from grass to Astroturf.
Treatment: Buy running shoes or insoles for extra padding and use RICE (Rest, Ice, Compress & Elevate) to treat the injury.
Flexibility and Activation
Sports injuries can also occur due to flexibility issues. You may think flexibility isn’t important for your particular sport, but a tight muscle is more likely to become torn or pulled. What’s more, other muscles can over compensate in order to protect this initial injury, which lead to further injuries down the line!
There are several ways to go about stretching tight muscles. First, you want to make sure you’re using a foam roller regularly.
Next is a method called PNF 3 stretching. If you want to do PNF stretching, simply follow these 3 steps with a partner:
- Stretch the muscle for 3-6 seconds.
- Contact the muscle against your partner’s resistance isometrically i.e. the joint in question stays still.
- Then stretch the muscle again, hopefully past the original point.
The final issue that can lead to sports injuries is over-active or under-active muscles. The most common under-active muscles are the glutes (your butt muscles), which can lead to knee and back injuries, especially when performing compound movements such as squats. One of the best methods to combat under-active glutes is to do some glute activation before moving onto your big lifts.
Plus we have one more flexibility activity that is beneficial for both girls and guys…
Yoga is becoming increasing popular in the sporting community, with many professional sports teams now taking classes to give their players a performance advantage from improved flexibility, core strength and control.
You may think that you don’t need to do any strength work because you already go to the gym. This is a natural thought process and something we used to think too — that belief stopped when we got injured!
As you train certain muscles in the gym, there’s a natural tendency for certain muscles to grow stronger than others. This eventually leads to an imbalance, where certain muscles can’t keep up with the workload that the others stronger muscles can handle.
Think of your body like a three-legged chair. Even if you upgrade the chair so that it has two steel legs, the one wooden leg is still going to break if an elephant sits down on it. You need to strengthen all aspects of a structure together if you want to increase your overall strength and performance.
Here are four key groups of exercises that you should focus on to help prevent sports injuries. Try incorporating these exercises into your workouts to make sure each and every part of your body is working in harmony:
- Rotator Cuff Exercises e.g. Internal and external shoulder rotations
- Glute Activation Exercises e.g. Crab walk or glute kickback
- Hamstring Exercises e.g. Nordic falls or isometric hamstring contractions
- Balance Exercises e.g. Swiss ball knee balance or BOSU ball squats
1 – Cortisol
2 – Tendons
3 – PNF stretching