Overuse and trauma are two common factors responsible for sports injuries. Both intrinsic (such as age, fitness level, muscle strength etc) and extrinsic factors (such as equipment, environment, type of activity etc) play a role in injuries.
Prevention of injuries may involve changing of training schedule, gear, training, practicing environment and style and many other factors. Primary prevention deals with prevention of an injury whereas secondary prevention is about prevention of re occurrence of injury. As "Prevention is better than cure," here are some tips that can help you prevent sports injuries. Whilst most of these may seem like common knowledge, you would be surprised by how many injuries can be avoided by following these tips.
Tip 1: Understand the importance of physical conditioning and know your limits
This factor is often overlooked by amateurs who easily succumb to temptation and overindulge. It is easy to get carried away when you return to sports after a long time. Knowing ones limits, gradually increasing the intensity and duration of training can help in injury prevention. Regular exercise is an effective way to energize your body and keep fit. On the other hand aggressive training beyond ones capabilities and the resulting overuse, fatigue, poor judgment makes injuries more likely.
Be mindful of old injuries and listen to your body. Warning signs such as joint pain, tenderness, and swelling are reasons to re-evaluate your technique and routine.
Tip 2: Invest in the right sporting gear
This includes every essential bit of equipment required for playing a particular sport, starting from the right shoes to the protective equipment such as helmets, gloves, protective pads etc. Right gear not only protects you from injuries but can also enhance your performance.
Tip 3: Warm and stretch your muscles
Warmed up muscles are less prone to injuries and overlooking warm-up sessions can cost one dearly. Warm up raises the core body temperature and gears up the body for the intended exercise. It helps by increasing the blood flow to muscles improving the muscle efficiency, range of motion and stretching the muscles being used in particular sports. Stretching to the point of tension (not pain) helps to reduce stiffness and improve flexibility, thereby reducing the chances of injury.
Warm up may be general or specific to the intended sport. The right exercises would vary depending on the sports. Starting the sport at a slow pace can be helpful. If you closely observe your sporting idols, you will always see them warm up prior to any game.
Tip 4: Use the right technique and follow the rules of the game
Correct techniques to play a sport are defined to minimize the chances of injuries and maximize your performance. The same can be said about the rules of the game. Incorrect overzealous manoeuvre can predispose one to injuries and hence the importance of concentrating on the precise technique. One example which I can quote as I commonly see this in my clinic is back injuries due to incorrect dead lift technique. Often that temptation to add the extra 5kgs compromises the technique predisposing one to injuries.
Selecting the appropriate surface for sports is equally important especially for repetitive activities such as running, jumping where the impact force on the body is magnified by 3- 12 times. Impact force on hard surfaces is much higher increasing the injury chances.
Tip 5: Cool down
Cooling down is another injury prevention technique that helps to return the heart rate, breathing, and blood pressure to the pre-training levels. It can also help to limit the post exercise muscle soreness and flush out toxins produced during the training.
Tip 6: Adequate recovery
Adequate recovery is essential no only for avoiding injuries but also for the full training effect. Inadequate recovery can lead to tiredness, lethargy, mental fatigue and impaired performance. Adequate recovery includes warm down sessions, re stand sleep, psychological and nutritional advices.