How can I avoid a sports injury?
The most common cause of a sports injury is the failure to warm-up sufficiently before beginning strenuous activity, however injuries are also often caused by the incorrect use of equipment and insufficient safety precautions. Those most susceptible to sports injury are competitive and professional athletes, whose intense training can make certain muscles vulnerable to injury through overuse.
Although it is impossible to prevent injury all the time due to the unpredictable nature of sports and physical activities, it is possible to undertake precautionary steps in order to decrease the likelihood of incurring an injury. Below are detailed the key steps to preventing a sporting injury.
The warm-up is the most important and significant way to reduce the likelihood of injury when participating in sports. A sufficient warm-up session should last at least 5-10 minutes, and involves gently stretching and exercising muscles to prepare them for the strenuous activity to follow. It is vital to start the warm-up slowly, and build up gradually to a more brisk and energetic pace.
Warming up in this way allows an increased flow of blood to reach the muscles, increasing the flexibility of the muscle fibres and significantly reducing the risk of pulling or straining a muscle. Ideal warm-up exercises include steady walking and jogging. These activities allow you to gradually increase the pace to further prepare your body for strenuous exercise.
When you have warmed up, you can undertake some gentle stretches to lengthen the muscles and tendons, further preventing injury. Pay particular attention to stretching those muscles which will be used during your exercise.
Use the correct protective equipment
For some sports, protective equipment is important to prevent damage to participants. This is particularly important when the sport or activity involves physical contact with other players and participants. Protective equipment may include shin pads (used in football and hockey), boxing gloves or protective head gear. All these pieces of equipment are designed to prevent injury to vulnerable parts of the body.
It is also important to wear correct footwear when participating in sports. The correct shoes can offer support to the foot and ankle, helping to prevent twisting and injury. Protective head gear is obviously extremely important, as helmets protect the skull and the brain from damage. This is vital in contact sports where the head may be knocked.
Many sports involve a particular technique which can minimise the risk of injury. It is important to learn the correct techniques associated with your chosen sport. By practising good technique an individual can greatly reduce the risk of sports-related injury to muscles, tendons and bones. This is also important in the gym, where experts will be on hand to help you use all equipment safely and effectively.
Do not over-reach yourself
It is extremely important, when taking part in physical activities, to listen to your body and know your physical limits. When you begin a new sport, begin slowly and steadily to avoid pulling or straining muscles which your body may not be used to using or stretching. If you have not undertaken strenuous exercise for some time, it is especially important to build up your stamina and strength gradually to avoid injury. Over time, you will notice your fitness increase, and you will be able to undertake physical activity for longer periods of time.
Water is vital to keep the body going, and this is especially true when you are active and exercising. If you are exercising in heat or in sunny weather, it is especially important to keep your body hydrated as dehydration can significantly reduce mental and physical fitness.
Just as it is important to warm-up properly, it is also essential that you cool down sufficiently after physical activity. After your work out, spend at least 5-10 minutes undertaking a gentle form of exercise (such as walking) to return your heart rate to a normal pace. The cool-down process allows your body to remove the muscles’ waste products and replace these with oxygen and nutrients. This helps to prevent stiffness of the muscles after exercising, and allows your muscles to recover steadily from physical activity.