When considering participating in sport or exercise, there are a number of factors that we need to address to ensure we minimise the risk of an injury. This article will cover some of the main points for you to consider.
When we consider sports injuries, we need to look at the two main areas:
Traumatic injury – sustained instantaneously; and
Overuse injury – where regular stress is placed on components of our body for a number of reasons and our tissues can no longer cope with the loads placed upon them.
The first question - is your body in physical condition to be undertaking the sport or physical activity? If you have had a long break and returning to the same sport, a different sport, or have a baseline of fitness and are changing sports, your body may not be fully prepared to launch into a new regime from the word ‘go’.
You may have heard of the term “training specificity”. This term means that your training and preparation for your sport or activity have to replicate components of that game or activity. For example, if you are a long distance runner, components of your training will involve running for longer distances, running technique, a similar surface to run on etc. It is not wise to compete in a long distance race without preparing your body for these conditions.
You may consider enlisting help from you physiotherapist to prescribe exercises to emulate parts of your physical activity. This can enable your body to adapt to those conditions and progress these exercises at a suitable rate to meet your needs.
Secondly, technique is key when preventing injury. It is integral that every move we make is biomechanically sound and engaging the correct muscles at the correct times. For example, someone who is rowing in a boat has to be mindful of the sequence of engaging the legs, upper body and shoulder girdle position while maintaining a stable position with their trunk and lower back. If the trunk position is sub-optimal or the timing of the shoulders and legs is out of sync, more pressure is placed on other structures such as the lower back predisposing the rower to injury.
Liaising with your coach and Physiotherapist to perform drills and exercises to improve your technique is very important. Regular constructive feedback will help improve the way your body performs and reduce the risk of injury.
Thirdly, a lot of sports require equipment and therefore we must ensure that our equipment is operating and set up correctly. Whether a netball post with secured padding or checking the springs on a trampoline, equipment failure is one component of which we must be mindful.
When we consider equipment, we also need to include the attire in which we train and compete. For example:
Are your shoes fitting correctly?
How old are they?
Are they the right shoes for your foot type?
Are they the right shoes for the surface that you are training on?
We can eliminate a number of injuries, just by checking these details. All too often, I see people who sprain their ankle from footwear that is either too big, too wide or not laced correctly enabling excessive movement in the shoe or footwear that is too small causing trauma to the toes or other structures of the foot and leg because the athlete is compensating with their running pattern due to discomfort.
Again, excessive movement, being cramped in tight footwear or clothing, chaffing, blisters, oversized clothing and so forth can all be very distracting and though they may not all lead to a direct injury, they can contribute to altering our technique or put other structures under undue stress thus leading to injury.
The next point to consider is training load. How much preparation are you doing for your chosen activity? Are you competing on a weekend and not undertaking any type of training during the week. Alternatively, are you training at high intensities every single day and neglecting a recovery day or recovery sessions to de-lactate your body?
There is a delicate balance between too little preparation and too much which then overloads your body. It is crucial to listen to your body and liaise with your teammates, coach and physiotherapist if you are experiencing signs of fatigue, niggles and pains, or if you are feeling under-prepared during an event.
Our body needs rest to restore happiness to our musculoskeletal system. Yet it also requires regular stresses placed upon it (training) to be able to adjust and cope adequately to prevent an injury.
Finally, our muscles operate most efficiently at an optimum temperature. If we don’t enable our muscles and soft tissues adequate blood flow and introduce increasing forces and change of direction, the mismatch in demand we place on our bodies and its lack of preparation can very much lead to injury.
Other variables that influence our body include:
These variables can also influence how our body responds and if overlooked, can predispose us to injury. We will address these in more detail in a future article.
About The Author: Sophie Halsall-McLennan is the owner of Fresh Start Physiotherapy. She is a hand therapist working in the Geelong region and has a Bachelor of Physiotherapy from Charles Sturt Physiotherapy, over 12 years of clinical experience as a Physiotherapist and is registered with AHPRA. She is also a Lecturer at Deakin University.