Like most athletes, you undoubtedly want to lower your chances of incurring an injury while participating in your favorite sport. Injuries decrease the amount of time you can spend in leisure activities, lower your fitness, downgrade competitive performance, and can lead to long term health problems such as arthritis.
There are some general rules for injury avoidance that apply to all sports. Sports scientists suggest that injury rates could be reduced by 25% if athletes took appropriate preventative action.
Coaches and athletes believe that males have higher injury rates than females. They have higher individual health insurance, but that is only because they do not live as long - male and female athletes have about the same injury rate per hour of training.
Among runners it is considered that training speed is the cause of injuries (Speed Kills) but research indicates that there is no link between speed and injury risk.
Do not overdo it
The amount of training you carry out plays a key role in determining your real injury risk. Studies have shown that your best direct injury predictor may be the amount of training you completed last month. Fatigued muscles do a poor job of protecting their associated connective tissues, increasing the risk of damage to bone, cartilage, tendons and ligaments. If you are a runner, the link between training quantity and injury means that the total mileage is an excellent indicator of your injury risk. The more miles you accrue per week, the higher the chances of injury. One recent investigation found a marked upswing in injury risk above 40 miles of running per week.
The two best predictors of injury
If you have been injured before then you are much more likely to get hurt than an athlete who has been injury free. Regular exercises have a way of uncovering the weak areas of the body. If you have knees that are put under heavy stress, because of your unique biomechanics during exercises, your knees are likely to hurt when you engage in your sport for a prolonged time. After recovery, you re-establish your desired training load without modification to your biomechanics then your knees are likely to be injured again.
The second predictor of injury is probably the number of consecutive days of training you carry out each week. Scientific studies strongly suggest that reducing the number of consecutive days of training can lower the risk of injury. Recovery time reduces injury rates by giving muscles and connective tissues an opportunity to restore and repair themselves between work-outs.
Some studies have shown that athletes who are aggressive, tense, and compulsive have a higher risk of injury than their relaxed peers do. Tension may make muscles and tendons tighter, increasing the risk that they will be harmed during workouts.
Many injuries are caused by weak muscles which simply are not ready to handle the specific demands of your sport. This is why people who start a running program for the first time often do well for a few weeks but then as they add the mileage on, suddenly develop foot or ankle problems, hamstring soreness or perhaps lower back pain. Their bodies simply are not strong enough to cope with the demands of the increased training load. For this reason, it is always wise to couple resistance training with regular training.
Screening for muscle imbalances is the current cutting edge of injury prevention. The rationale behind this is that there are detectable and correctable abnormalities of muscle strength and length that are fundamental to the development of almost all musculoskeletal pain and dysfunction. Detection of these abnormalities and correction before injury has occurred should be part of any injury prevention strategy. Assessment of muscle strength and balanceand regular sports massage can be beneficial in this strategy.
Muscle stiffness refers to the ratio between the change in muscle resistance and the change in muscle length. Muscle stiffness is directly related to muscle injury risk and so it is important to reduce muscle stiffness as part of a warm up. Research has indicated that only dynamic stretches - slow controlled movements through the full range of motion - decrease muscle stiffness. Static exercises did not decrease muscle stiffness.
This suggests that dynamic stretches are the most appropriate exercises for warming up and not static stretching exercises. Static stretches are perhaps more appropriate for the cool down as they help to relax the muscles and increase their range of movement.
Injury prevention tips
Avoid training when you are tired
Increase your consumption of carbohydrate during periods of heavy training
Increase in training should be matched with increases in resting
Any increase in training load should be preceded by an increase in strengthening
Treat even seemingly minor injuries very carefully to prevent them becoming a big problem
If you experience pain when training STOP your training session immediately
Never train hard if you are stiff from the previous effort
Check over training and competition courses beforehand
Train on different surfaces, using the right footwear
Shower and change immediately after the cool down
Aim for maximum comfort when travelling
Stay away from infectious areas when training or competing very hard
Be extremely fussy about hygiene in hot weather
Monitor daily for signs of fatigue, if in doubt ease off.
Have regular sports massage
Stretching – Why is it so Important?
Stretching is the deliberate lengthening of muscles in order to increase muscle flexibility and joint range of motion.
Stretching activities are an important part of any exercise or rehabilitation program.
They help warm the body up prior to activity thus decreasing the risk of injury as well as muscle soreness.
The benefits of stretching are many and have been proven through various studies over time.
Stretching benefits people of all ages, and is intended for the young as well as the elderly population.
The Benefits of Stretching
Increased flexibility and joint range of motion:
Flexible muscles can improve your daily performance. Tasks such as lifting packages, bending to tie your shoes or hurrying to catch a bus become easier and less tiring. Flexibility tends to diminish as you get older, but you can regain and maintain it.
Stretching increases blood flow to your muscles. Blood flowing to your muscles brings nourishment and gets rid of waste byproducts in the muscle tissue. Improved circulation can help shorten your recovery time if you've had any muscle injuries.
Frequent stretching can help keep your muscles from getting tight, allowing you to maintain proper posture. Good posture can minimize discomfort and keep aches and pains at a minimum.
Stretching relaxes tight, tense muscles that often accompany stress.
Maintaining the full range-of-motion through your joints keeps you in better balance. Coordination and balance will help keep you mobile and less prone to injury from falls, especially as you get older.
Proper Stretching Techniques
It is essential to practice proper stretching techniques. Doing so will allow you to avoid any unnecessary injury. Tips to proper stretching technique include the following:
Warm up first
Stretching muscles when they're cold increases your risk of pulled muscles. Warm up by walking while gently pumping your arms, or do a favorite exercise at low intensity for five minutes.
Hold each stretch for at least 30 seconds. It takes time to lengthen tissues safely. Hold your stretches for at least 30 seconds — and up to 60 seconds for a really tight muscle or problem area. That can seem like a long time, so wear a watch or keep an eye on the clock to make sure you're holding your stretches long enough. For most of your muscle groups, if you hold the stretches for at least 30 seconds, you'll need to do each stretch only once.
Bouncing as you stretch can cause small tears (microtears) in the muscle, which leave scar tissue as the muscle heals. The scar tissue tightens the muscle even further, making you even less flexible — and more prone to pain.
Focus on a pain-free stretch
If you feel pain as you stretch, you've gone too far. Back off to the point where you don't feel any pain, then hold the stretch.
Stretch both sides
Make sure your joint range of motion is as equal as possible on each side of your body
Stretch before and after activity
Light stretching after your warm-up followed by a more thorough stretching regimen after your workout is your best bet.
Athletes: The Importance of Good Hydration
Why is it so important to stay properly hydrated?
Whether you’re a serious athlete or recreational exerciser, it’s important to make sure you get the right amount of water before, during and after exercising. Water regulates your body temperature, lubricates joints and helps transport nutrients for energy and health. If you’re not properly hydrated, your body will be unable to perform at its highest level, and you may experience fatigue, muscle cramps dizziness or more serious symptoms.
There are no set guidelines for water intake while exercising because everyone is different.
Sweat rate, heat, humidity, exercise intensity and duration are just some of the factors that must be considered. A simple way to make sure you’re staying properly hydrated is to check your urine. If your urine is consistently colorless or light yellow, you are most likely staying well hydrated. Dark yellow or amber-colored urine is a sign of dehydration.
What about sports drinks?
While you are exercising, water is the best drink for most people, most of the time. However, if you are exercising at a high intensity for more than an hour, you may want to chose a sports drink. The calories, potassium and other nutrients in sports drinks can help provide energy and electrolytes to help you perform for a longer period of time.
Choose sports drinks wisely, as they are often high in calories, sugar and sodium. Also check the serving size – 1 bottle may contain several servings. If you drink the entire bottle, you may need to double or even triple the amounts given on the Nutrition Facts Label. Some sports drinks contain caffeine. If you use a sports drink that contains caffeine, be careful not to get too much caffeine in your diet.
Directions: Complete these activities.
1. List the activities you participate in on a regular basis.
2. Describe the health risks related to the activities you listed.
3. Discuss ways to prevent injury or illness during your participation in each of the activities you listed.
Activity: First Aid Story/ How to recognize and take care of an injury
Student volunteer to be injured
I - apply ice or a cold compress to reduce swelling
C - comfortably support by using effective support bandaging
E - elevate limb to reduce blood flow to affected area
This treatment may be sufficient to relieve the symptoms, but if you're in doubt about the severity of the injury treat it as a fracture and seek medical advice.
Shin splints are caused by overuse of the lower legs. The pain associated with shin splints is a result of fatigue and trauma to the muscle's tendons where they attach themselves to the tibia. In an effort to keep the foot, ankle and lower leg stable, the muscles exert a great force on the tibia. This excessive force can result in the tendons being partially torn away from the bone.
Exercising on hard surfaces, like concrete;
Exercising on uneven ground;
Beginning an exercise program after a long lay-off period;
Increasing exercise intensity or duration too quickly;
Exercising in worn out or ill fitting shoes; and
Excessive uphill or downhill running.
The best way to treat shin splints is to take appropriate measures to avoid getting them. This includes proper, thorough stretching before and after activity. Wrapping/Taping has not been proven to help shin splints at all (in fact, it can make the condition worse) so the athletic trainers will not tape shin splints. Once an athlete gets shin splints, the best hope is to manage them so they don’t turn in to stress fractures. Here are a few tips (other than REST):
Cold whirlpool treatments each morning with the athletic trainers
Heat immediately before activity followed by extensive stretching & massage
Thorough warm up
Ice after activity
Ice massage in the evenings
Ibuprofen to manage swelling and pain (follow bottle’s directions)
Arch supports inside shoes
Alter training regiment with closed chain activities (bike instead of run)