All sports have a risk for injury and some are serious enough to cost you an entire sports season or career. Luckily, they can be prevented if you are cautious in using the correct steps to protecting and warming up your body, along with allowing your body to rest. Here are 5 ways athletes can avoid sports injuries and stay in the game:
Get in shape before starting a new activity or sport
Expecting your sport to get you in shape without any additional exercise is a major mistake an athlete can make, especially if you are not accustomed to the full, physical intensity of a specific sport. Get in shape before you start your sport by incorporating regular exercise into your daily regimen. This can mean doing physical training or following an off season conditioning program that is designed for your sport, as it can build your balance of strength, agility, flexibility, coordination and endurance. Not only can it better your physical abilities, but also improve overall technique. Cross training is also an option that can prevent burn out and overuse injuries. Mixing routines and workouts can improve your range of movement and activate other muscle groups in your body, which in turn, improves performance during a game.
Warm up and cool down
Warming up and cooling down your body is just as important as the game itself. So before any type of vigorous movement, it’s crucial to prevent any potential risks for injury by protecting your muscles in the long-run. This means increasing your heart rate to get your body adjusted to continuous movement and warming up large muscle groups to activate certain parts of your body. Then, when your muscles are warm, strengthening and lengthening your muscles can not only assist you in your performance during the game, but also prevent any potential injuries.
After the game, it is important to cool down your body with stretches that can slowly and safely ease your heart rate. Instead of laying or sitting down in a stationary position, keep your body and your blood flow moving by taking a walk and/or stretching any fatigued muscles.
Wear protective gear
Many sports require gear such as helmets, cleats, pads (neck, shoulder, elbow, chest, knee, shin), face guards, mouthpieces, protective cups, and/or eyewear. Making sure your equipment is correct for your sport is also important. For example, wearing running shoes would be great for a marathon, but not for a soccer game. It’s crucial to wear properly fitting equipment to reduce the likelihood of major injuries, however, athletes should not assume that it will fully protect them. Along with proper technique and playing safe, all rules should be enforced and all gear should be in good condition and worn appropriately.
Many athletes underestimate their fluid needs and find themselves exhausted and dehydrated in the midst of an intense game. Dehydration leads to poor performance due to lower blood volume, which makes it more difficult to send oxygen to your muscles. Emphasizing fluid intake will not only keep your body cool, but also decrease your chances of feeling fatigued. Adequately hydrating before, during and after a game is important to replenish your body of all fluid loss. Depending on the duration and intensity of the exercise, incorporating some type of electrolyte can assist your body in getting the nutrients it needs. However, drinking plain water will suffice and will reduce the risk of dehydration.
Don’t play when you are injured
Although there are many ways to prevent sports injuries, injuries may still occur. Allowing your body to recover and rest to let the injury heal will be more beneficial to your body rather than “playing through the pain.”
There are two types of sports injuries: acute and chronic. Acute injuries occur suddenly while chronic injuries happen after playing a sport or exercising for a long time. When dealing with an acute injury, remember to use RICE: rest, ice compression, and elevation. When dealing with a chronic injury, it is important to contact a doctor and let them determine what precautions you should take before playing or exercising.
Additionally, even when you are not injured, fatigued muscles can put you at risk for potential injuries. It’s important to allow your body to have one day to recover, especially if you are continuously playing throughout the week. Ultimately, continuing to play during an injury can only make it worse and may even lead to chronic problems. Taking a few days off may prevent the loss of an entire season or career.
Good luck and play safe!