Play it Safe.

Steps to reduce the risk of sustaining an injury during sport or recreation

 

Emma West, B. Physiotherapy
Health Fitness Special Guest

Editor's Note:

An injury free lifestyle allows us to focus on getting the most out of life, gives us the ability to train consistently and to continue having fun at sporting activities. Unfortunately as we age our inbuilt mechanisms that protect us from injuries get slack and we get more complacent. When taking this into consideration and coupled with the fact that some of us train more than ever, and take sport more and more seriously, it's no wonder that injuries in sporting activities are rife and generally accepted as inevitable. Physiotherapist, Emma West, is here to tell us practical tips on how to reduce your risk of injury in sport, keep you out of the doctor's office and into the sporting field for longer. As always, it is action that produces results, so read on but more importantly "apply". - Stefan

It is a common misconception that injuries are an acceptable part of any sporting activity. However this is not the case. By taking appropriate measures we can significantly reduce the risk of injuries sustained whilst engaging in sporting or recreational activities and in some cases prevent them entirely.
Sport and recreational activities are a major part of many people’s lives. They promote fitness, fun and socialisation. However, there is also a risk of injury associated with many of these activities.

Back in a 1990 study, sports injury in Australia was estimated to result in indirect costs of close to $1billion annually, with an estimated 1 million sporting injuries occurring each year.

It is a common misconception that injuries are an acceptable part of any sporting activity. However this is not the case. By taking appropriate measures we can significantly reduce the risk of injuries sustained whilst engaging in sporting or recreational activities and in some cases prevent them entirely.

Apart from the actual physical effects of an injury, there are many broader consequences suffered as a result. Eg. Inability to work, and psychological factors that can reduce a persons quality of life and impact on their family. There are also significant health costs associated with injury, therefore it is vital we try and prevent them occurring.

There are some simple steps we can take ourselves to reduce the risk of sustaining an injury during sport or recreation. The guidelines listed below can also be applied to many activities we do daily around the home to help reduce the risk of strains, sprains and overuse injuries.

WARM UP
This helps to prepare the body for exercise, and often consists of gentle aerobic exercise. It should be gentle and slow to the point of very light sweating. The warm up causes an increased circulation of blood to the muscles about to exercise and helps reduce stiffness. The warm up period usually lasts 15 to 30 minutes, depending on the exercise and individual differences.

STRETCH
Static stretching is a very important part of injury prevention. Warming up before stretching increases the blood flow to the muscles as outlined above, making your stretches more effective. The stretches must be both general and specific to the sport you are preparing to do. It is important to hold the stretches for 30-60 seconds. You should feel a gentle stretch, with no pain or discomfort. The stretch feeling should reduce as the muscle adapts, at this point you can stretch a little bit further and hold for a further 30 seconds. DO NOT BOUNCE. Bouncing can cause tiny tears in the muscle, which can lead to further injury and reduced flexibility long term.

STRAPPING
Taping, strapping or bracing of specific parts of the body may be done for two reasons. It may be used to help prevent injury occurring in high risk activities (eg. Ankle taping in basketball) or it is more often used as part of the rehabilitation of an injured joint to protect it from further injury as a person returns to exercise after injury. This should only be done on the advice of a health care professional.

COOL DOWN
This should comprise light aerobic exercise for 5-15 minutes. The cool down period is important as this is when the blood carries oxygen and nutrients to the muscles used in exercise and removes waste products resulting from exercise.

STRETCH
Static stretching again after exercising helps the muscles recover and prevents soreness.

Other measures which can help reduce the risk of injury include the use of appropriate protective equipment (eg. Helmet, mouth guard, wrist guards, shin guards), use of suitable equipment, being aware of the surface you are exercising on and modify where able, ensuring correct biomechanical technique.


OTHER TIPS
· Avoid exercising when tired.
· Ensure supposed minor injuries are treated correctly to prevent them recurring or from developing into more major injuries.
· STOP if you experience pain. Ignore the old saying, “no pain, no gain”.
· Consider appropriate diet including hydration.
· Ensure you have appropriate footwear.
· Whenever starting a new activity, start slowly and gradually build up.


It is important to seek advice from an appropriate health care professional prior to starting an exercise program or if you wish to discuss specific injury prevention strategies.
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"It is a common misconception that injuries are an acceptable part of any sporting activity. However this is not the case. By taking appropriate measures we can significantly reduce the risk of injuries sustained whilst engaging in sporting or recreational activities and in some cases prevent them entirely. "

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References:

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics 1999/2000 – the top ten sports and physical activities were walking, swimming, aerobics/fitness, golf, tennis, fishing, cycling, running, tenpin bowling and netball.

       
 

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DISCLAIMER: The information on this site is for educational purposes only. Always seek medical advice prior to starting any health fitness program.