Photo courtesy of ecmorgan.
If you have been around competitive sport for any length of time, whether as a serious athlete, a coach or just to keep fit, chances are you will have, at some stage, experienced the pain, frustration and debilitation of a physical sports injury.
Perhaps the worst thing about an injury is not the pain you suffer, but the frustration of being out of your sport in the weeks that follow. Injuries are not only painful, they are a big blow for performance. The time needed to heal and rehabilitate, could otherwise have been spent improving your performance and fitness or competing in your sport.
Some knowing athletes have compared a sports injury to losing money. When you lose money, not only do you lose all the wonderful things you might have spent that money on, but to make up that loss you have to work hard just to get back to where you started.
In a recent article on the management of sporting injuries, the author estimated a staggering 27,000 sportsmen in the US sprain their ankles every day.
In another startling report by Sports Medicine Australia, it is estimated that for each 17 sporting and exercise participants, one will suffer an injury playing their favorite sport.
Of course one could naturally expect this number to be a lot higher for contact sports like Gridiron and Rugby, but perhaps what is more startling is not so much that these numbers are so high, but that in over 50 percent of documented cases, an injury may have been avoided using proven preventative methods.
To vastly reduce the prevalence of sporting injury there are a number of well known basic measures that athletes can take. Unfortunately in practice these do not get used nearly often enough.
Of these methods, there is one practice that has been receiving increased attention from athletes and coaches alike. It seems fitness professionals are slowly catching onto the fact that the likelihood of sports injury can be drastically reduced by including it in their sporting routines.
Before getting into detail, let’s explore some other techniques that can also help you prevent sports injury.
Photo courtesy of Kelley Mari
Warm Up and Cool Down
Athletes and coaches are now starting to recognize the importance of a warm-up and cool-down before and after exerting physical effort. A good warm-up works because the body temperature is raised and the blood flow and oxygen supply to the muscles increased, preparing the muscles and joints for the physical effort ahead.
But the effect of preparing for exertion is not just physical, it is also helps prepare the mind for the mental challenges of the sport.
Warming up is perhaps the most vital part of preventing a sports injury, but the importance of a post-session cool-down can not be understated in it’s role to prevent sports injury either.
When you exercise, waste products like lactic acid build up in your body creating stiffness and soreness that. If it reaches a certain level, your body’s range of movement decreases, which in turn increases your chance of injury. A gentle cool-down will do wonders in loosening and relaxing stressed muscles. They will become less stiff and tight and most importantly less likely to contribute to an injury.
The “Magic Technique” that Can Cut Your Risk of Injury By More Than Half Revealed?
Doing nothing other than getting adequate warm-up, and cool-down, is enough to radically reduce your chance of injury by iteself, but you can do more. So what is this wonderful technique that can so dramatically reduce my chance of injury? What is this secret?
Well actually there is no magic technique or secret. What I am about to tell you is common knowledge and something, you most likely have heard before numerous times. Chances are you have probably used this technique at some stage or have seen others use it, but the real issue is whether you have made it a consistent part of your training routine.
The “secret”? IT’S STRETCHING!
Do not underestimate the role that regular stretching before hard physical effort can have in preventing sports injuries. It is unfortunately an area often neglected, even by those at the top level of their sport who should know better. So effective is stretching that is should be viewed as a vital part of any exercise routine and a consistent part of your athletic performance preparation training. The good news is that there is no magic involved and it is free.
Photo courtesy of Tom@HK
So how does stretching prevent injury? Stretching works because by stretching, you are in effect trying to lengthen your muscles as well as your tendons. This will result in a greater range of movement in your limbs and joints, which can be helpful not only in achieving greater performances (a runner with a longer stride length can move freer and ultimately faster), but in terms of injury prevention.
Restricted movement can lead to strain and tearing when a muscle is suddenly moved beyond it’s capable range.
As an example. If the muscles in your neck are tight and stiff, the ability to look behind you is vastly hindered. If you are playing a sport like football or rugby and your head is turned backwards past it’s normal range of movement, this could easily result in a muscle tear or strain. If you had done some stretching and flexibility work prior to this, the muscle tendons in your neck would have had a greater range and the injury may have been prevented.
Runners and especially sports that involve kicking can put the hamstring muscles under a huge amount of strain. This can spell disaster in many scenarios, whether it be due to repetitive running on shortened muscles (running) or a dynamic event that causes a muscle tear (kicking), by ensuring these muscles are kept loose and flexible through some simple, regular stretching exercises the risk of hamstring injury can be dramatically reduced.
It is an unfortunate fact of life that sporting injuries can occur at any time, yet it has been proven time and time again that muscles that are fatigued, tight and depleted of energy are at a much higher risk.
Regular stretching coupled with adequate warm up and recovery ensure that your muscles and tendons are maintained in good working order over the long run. A simple stretching program can help you maintain a prolonged period of injury free sport participation.