Health & Wellness

Shape Shifter

Injury prevention to stay in the game

By Jackilyn Rock

Prevention of sports injuries has become the focus of many coaches and sports medicine professionals as new information, research and developments are made within the athletic industry. Whether you are a weekend warrior or a seasoned athlete, sport-related injuries can strike at any time. Follow these simple guidelines to spend more time playing and less time sitting on the sidelines nursing wounds.

Proper Technique

Proper movement and analysis of the human body is known as biomechanics. Basic principles such as lifting heavy objects with your legs instead of your back and sitting in an ergonomically correct chair at a desk job, are both a result of the study of biomechanics. A qualified athletic coach or trainer should be well educated in proper body positioning and movement to help the athlete perform the sport effectively and efficiently. Good form is equally important during any kind of physical training, from a casual jog, to playing on the field. Repetitive movements with bad form result in overuse injuries by placing unnecessary stress on joints, tendons and ligaments. And it all starts with our posture. With an abundance of slouching and hunching at desks and over electronic devices, poor posture is on the rise and contributing to bad form in our most basic movements. When bad posture becomes a habit it directly affects physical training. A good trainer or coach will assess and correct posture before training the body to move correctly.

Ease Into It

Weekend warriors have a high risk of injury, not only because they generally fail to condition themselves to the specific s port, b ut t hey o ften p lay extensively within a one or two day timespan. Don’t use the mindset that the game will get you into shape. Train adequately and steadily for the sport you are playing, and if you are just starting out for the season, ease your way into training with one or two days of sport specific training and general conditioning each week, increasing gradually over several weeks.

Cross Train

Cross training simply makes better athletes. Research shows that athletes who cross train, are better balanced, stronger, faster and less prone to injury than those who don’t. Instead of training at only one sport or activity and resting upon fatigue, the training methods can be varied. This will increase aerobic capacity and stamina by allowing the athlete to continue training with different exercises while avoiding body parts that need to be in recovery.

Recovery

Train more, play better, right? To an extent—rest is crucial and needs to be timed wisely. Too many consecutive days of training can have an adverse effect and cause more harm than good. Once fatigue sets in, poor form becomes a risk. Avoid playing while tired or in pain as this can result in poor judgement and a careless injury which can be extra frustrating. Research has shown us that recovery days reduce rates of injury by allowing the body’s connective tissues and muscles time to repair between training sessions. Another point worth mentioning: don’t play injured, as tempting as it may be.

Gear

Play with proper gear. It isn’t for the weak, it is for the wise. Properly fitted attire from shoes to mouthguards, helmets, and the like, can spare afflictions from knees, ankles and head. Modern technology has made huge strides in sport-specific injury prevention so make sure your gear is up to date! This goes for non-athletes as well. In other words, avoid jogging in your Vans, or hiking in flip flops.

Warm up

Warm, pliable muscles are less susceptible to mishaps. In an effective warm up, the heart rate rises gradually, muscles and connective tissue become warm, mobility increases and all movements of the body should function properly. The result will be lower occurrences of strains.

Cool Down & Stretch

Sometimes taking 10-15 minutes to cool down and stretch seems like time we just don’t have. And, yes, the body will eventually lower the heart rate and return to its pre-workout state on its own. So why bother? Allowing proper time to cool down and thereafter stretch will reduce muscle soreness and prevent future injury. Developing and maintaining flexibility should not be underrated. Reduced flexibility is one of the primary causes of soft tissue strains. In limited flexibility, we find muscles that are tight and shortened, and thus highly vulnerable to damage during sporting activities. After cooling down from the workout or sport, stretch the main muscle groups just worked. As an ongoing strategy, develop a stretching program encompassing stretches for the entire body with additional stretches specific to the needs of your unique body. If you cannot touch your toes, for example, additional stretches focusing on the hamstrings, calves, hips and glute muscles are in order.