Growing up I played any sport I could get my hands on; swimming, surfing, football, basketball, tennis, volleyball, even netball! Unfortunately for me I was plagued by injury, gaining an equal amount of experience in knee, hip and back issues. However, it just so happened that my experience in sport and injury actually led me to pursue a career in Physiotherapy, so it isn’t all bad.
Why was it that I kept hurting myself? I was fit and strong, yet I would always find myself rolling ankles, twisting knees or straining my back. It wasn’t until I started studying that I realised a few common causes of injury, and ways to avoid them. Here is a few sneaky tips I wish I knew before!
- Strength is the best defence
Muscle strains account for a majority of sporting injuries. A strain, otherwise known as a tear, occurs when force on muscle tissue exceeds that which it can tolerate. This can often happen by a muscle contracting too hard to combat a force, repetitive stress without adequate recovery, over stretching or a combination of factors.Evidence suggests that weight and strength training is a crucial part in injury prevention. By keeping your muscles strong, they can tolerate more force and are less likely to give way and tear when under stress. You don’t necessarily have to be doing 200kg squats, but just incorporating some resistance exercise into your weekly routine.
Hint! Aim for 2 gym/resistance sessions a week.
- Balance is key
Proprioception may sound daunting, but it is your best friend when coming to injury prevention! It is basically your awareness of where your body and joints are in space. Along with vestibular and visual inputs, it is one of the three elements that make up your ability to balance. When you have great proprioception, you are less likely to sustain injuries because your body is able to adjust and recorrect itself before you are put in harms way.Balance and proprioceptive exercises also make up a major part of our management for return from injury. By putting yourself in an unstable situation you are automatically training this system. So jump on a wobble board, swiss ball or try some single leg squats, they’ll work wonders!
Hint! Complete 5min of balance training per day. Do it in your ad breaks!
- Train hard, recover smart
The theory with sport used to be the harder you trained the better you were. People would run until they couldn’t walk straight, or lift weights until they couldn’t lift a drink bottle, and expect to do this day in day out. Sure you need to reach a point of fatigue in order to gain benefit from exercise, but when you are repetitively using the same muscle groups in the same way without giving yourself enough time to recover, overuse injuries start creeping in.Get enough sleep, eat well, do your stretches, drink water, treat yourself to a massage, we all know what we need to do but it is about prioritising it up there with your exercise sessions and making time for it in your schedule. The greater you recover, the better your training quality, and the less likely you are to injure yourself.
Hint! Dedicate at least one full day to rest a week. Treat yourself!
- Break up your routine
It doesn’t matter what sport you choose, it is essential for everyone to have a variety of training session styles. It can get boring doing the same thing everyday, but can also lead to muscle and performance imbalances. Think of a runner; they can’t be expected to get on the track and pump out 15km each day. Change it up with some cross training (another sport), or any of the sessions mentioned previously.
Hint! Try a different session each week. Keep it interesting!