The 5 Best Ways To Avoid a Sports Injury
Whether you consider yourself a serious athlete or just a weekend warrior, injuries are an unfortunate part of the game — even at the highest levels. We’ve seen this over the last few weeks for a number of athletes who were rendered unable to compete in the Rio games due to injuries sustained either before or during their events.
There is good news, however. Just because sports injuries are expected doesn’t mean they can’t be avoided! With that in mind, it’s key to know what areas of the body normally experience injuries during physical activity, as well as how to prepare yourself to prevent such injuries.
According to the NAIMS, part of the National Institutes of Health, the most common sports injuries are:
- Sprains and strains
- Knee injuries
- Swollen muscles
- Achilles tendon injuries
- Pain along the shin bone
While a fairly long list, it offers a clear indication of the types of sports injuries athletes are likely to experience during practice or competition. What this list doesn’t offer, however, is how to avoid these injuries altogether — because while they may be common to athletes, most can be prevented with a few simple techniques.
- Perform a Brief Warmup
Before any sporting event, athletes typically spend between 20–60 minutes getting their joints, muscles and minds prepped for competition with a full-body warmup exercises. You may not need this much time to warm up before your own event, keep in mind that a minimum of 5–10 minutes of warmup beforehand lets your body know you’re about to perform at a more strenuous and energetic pace.
By warming up for just a few minutes, you’ll improve blood flow to your muscles and the rest of your body and impact the elasticity of your muscles. Your joints and tendons will also see an added boost, helping prepare you for the next step in sports injury prevention!
- Get a Stretch In
In a study put out by the Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine, stretching by itself doesn’t do much to decrease the risk of a sports injury. However, the study also found that participants who stretched and did a warmup routine did see clear benefits, adding to the improvements that were already shown in pre-activity warmups. For more information on the positives and negatives of stretching, check out our article on The Truth about Stretching.
- Follow the Rules
Most sports involve some type of physical contact, whether from another participant or the environment it’s being played in. As a result, most sports require that participants follow rules that help avoid sports injuries, as well as equipment designed to keep your body in its best condition. Beyond just following the rules of conduct in your event, make sure you’re wearing any protective gear as well!
- Drink up!
Fortunately, nearly all athletes know how important it is to keep hydration levels up during competition — not doing so can affect performance! Conversely, not all non-athletes understand how critical it really is to drink enough water both before and after these types of activities.
To avoid dehydration, which we detailed in our article Keep Cool, Stay Hydrated, we recommend following a tip from the Mayo Clinic — athletes should get 1–3 cups of water before exercising. This is in addition to the water or sports drinks you’re also consuming during and after activities as well. Following this will help your body do a better job of regulating its temperature, allow joints to stay lubricated and give your cardiovascular system the boost it needs to run well!
- Get some rest
If you’re experiencing pain during an event or not performing as well as you expect, your body is trying to tell you it needs some rest and recovery. Many sports injuries can easily be avoided by simply listening to the warning signs the body gives.
Pain is a problem, so if your pain persists a consultation with a physician is necessary. An experienced physical therapist or sports medicine specialist is also an option to meet with before resuming your sport. If you’re dealing with fatigue or muscle soreness, however, don’t be afraid to take at least a few days off before getting back into playing sports. Your body will certainly thank you for the rest.
Do you have a sports injury that needs immediate attention or you’d like to get a second opinion? Visit an All Sports Physical Therapy location near you to get the best physical therapy NY has to offer from our team of physical therapists and sports medicine specialists.