Sporting injuries - reducing the risks
exercise; sports; injuries; injury; training;
Sport and other physical activities are fun and a great way to keep fit and feel good. When you enjoy sport and physical activity, the last thing you want is to miss out on sport because of injury. The good news is that, by following a few simple rules and using some plain common sense, many sporting injuries can be prevented.
or acute injuries
Traumatic injuries are caused by a specific event or trauma. Some examples of traumatic injuries are:
- spraining an ankle while running (stretching and tearing muscle tendons)
- tearing ligaments in a knee by landing awkwardly
- breaking a bone when it is hit by something hard (such as a hard ball, the ground, a goalpost or a hard part of someone else's body! )
- cuts, grazes and bruises
- head injuries – cuts, bruises and concussion.
As the name suggests, over-use injuries are injuries that happen more gradually and are caused by over-using or over-working a particular body part or muscle group.
Examples of over-use injuries are:
- a baseball pitcher continuing to pitch when the arm or shoulder is painful
- a ballet dancer over-using the feet, ankles, legs and back
- a weight lifter using the same muscles over and over
- a tennis player over-using an elbow (tennis elbow) or shoulder.
of common injuries
All of the injuries mentioned above can be very painful. They can mess up your sporting fun and also your daily life. A serious injury to your wrist or shoulder could stop you being able to do basic things like dressing and undressing yourself, or washing your own hair in the shower. If your leg or another body part is in plaster, even having a shower can turn into a circus.
Fortunately, there are some basic steps you can take to reduce your chances of becoming injured during your exercise routine or your favourite sport.
Here are some guidelines that you can follow in preventing traumatic injury.
- Train correctly, so that your strong muscles can protect your joints and other muscles.
- Warm up and cool down before and after physical activity.
- Use the proper safety equipment.
- Drink plenty of fluids while exercising.
- Be sun smart.
Ever wondered how footballers or basketballers can have those spectacular falls, and then get straight up and go on playing? It is not just that they are 'tough'. They have also been training carefully so that their strong muscles can protect their joints and other parts of their bodies. They also 'cross train' so that all their muscles become strong and well balanced.
up and cooling down
Warming up before strenuous activity, and taking the time to cool down afterwards also helps reduce the risk of injuries.
- Walk around or pedal an exercise bike for 10 minutes. This will warm up the muscles, get the heart pumping and the blood flowing through the body. It will get the muscles ready to work well while playing sport or working out.
- Gently stretch muscle areas, holding each stretch for 10 – 20 seconds. Stretching your muscles before and after sport or exercise can make your muscles more flexible and reduce risk of injuries such as muscle strain. It is important to remember not to 'bounce' or use jerky movements when stretching. Try for a slow even stretch, stopping when you feel muscle resistance (and before you feel any pain). Hold the stretch for about 20 seconds, then slowly return to your starting position. Regular stretching exercises will help your body perform better during sport or exercise as well as other daily activities.
- Your cool down routine should be similar to warming up and should include some gentle exercise that allows your body to cool down as well as some stretches. Cooling down properly means less stiffness and muscle soreness the next day.
the proper safety equipment
If any kind of safety equipment is recommended for your sport or activity, make sure you use it. Sport 'safety' equipment is important because some injuries are common in some activities. Mouth guards to protect your teeth should be used for many sports, and shin guards for soccer and hockey, for example. Safety equipment should be used during training as well as during the actual game or activity.
Whatever sport or physical activity you choose, make sure that you wear good quality, well fitting footwear. They do not have to be the most expensive brand! It is best to have the right shoes for your sport, such as the right boots for football. Suitable shoes will support your feet and ankles, and help absorb high impacts like jumping and running. This is especially important in games like football, netball, and basketball, where knee and ankle injuries are very common.
It is important to have drinks before, during and after sport and physical activity. You can lose a lot of fluid through sweating and breathing hard, and it is best to be able to replace this fluid with enough drinks.
- Water or fruit juices can be good drinks if your sport is moderately energetic.
- For very energetic sports, sports drinks may be useful, but you don't need them for most sports.
The weather can affect your sport in different ways. It can be fun to get very muddy when the ground is wet, but the surface can become dangerously slippery.
In Australia, hot weather can be more of a problem. You need to take care to be 'sun smart'.
- Have frequent small drinks.
- If it's a hot day, avoid outdoor exercise, especially in the hottest part of the day between about 11 am and 3 pm. If it's really hot, it can be best to consider cancelling the event.
- For sport on hot days, a grassy shaded area is better than an open sunny area.
- Wear a shady wide-brimmed hat, clothes that cover most of your skin, sunglasses if they are safe for your sport, and sunscreen.
Slip, Slop, Slap, Seek and Slide is the way to go to keep skin safe from the harmful effects of the sun.
- slip on a shirt
- slop on sunscreen
- slap on a hat
- seek shade
- slide on your sunglasses.
Cross training means doing a variety of exercises/sports as part of your exercise program. People who spend all of their time training for and playing one kind of sport may find that they are over using some muscle groups and joints, and ignoring others. For example, keen cyclists will build strength and muscle in their legs and lower body and improve their aerobic fitness, but may be quite weak in their upper body. These people could benefit from activities such as rowing or resistance training to build up upper body strength.
Another good reason for cross training is to make sure that 'oppositional' muscle groups are developed evenly. Runners, joggers and walkers usually have strong hamstrings (muscles at the back of the thighs), but these activities don't put as much strain on the quadriceps, an opposing muscle group at the front of the thighs. This means that the hamstrings are much stronger than the quadriceps. These two muscle groups are designed to work together but if one is stronger than the other, this can cause instability of the knee joints that can result in serious knee injuries. By alternating running or walking with another activity such as cycling or weight training, you can ensure that all of the muscles in your legs are getting an even work out.
Gradually building up strength and flexibility in all muscle groups will increase the muscle's ability to support joints and to absorb impact and protect the bones, all of which will greatly reduce the likelihood of injury.
And anyway, having one part of the body really overdeveloped makes for an unbalanced look, which is not very attractive.
The information on this site should not be used as an alternative to professional care. If you have a particular problem, see a doctor, or ring the Youth Healthline on 1300 13 17 19 (local call cost from anywhere in South Australia).