Injury Prevention in sport is an important part of any season. This can give you the best opportunity to stay fit and playing for as long as possible.
A sports injury prevention plan can prevent soft tissue and non-contact injuries but also lower your risk of traumatic/contact injuries.
On top of that it can also give you an edge on the competition, with superior fitness, endurance, speed, power and skills allowing you to be at your best for longer than the rest.
Types of Sports Injuries
There are two main types of injuries that occur within sport;
1) Acute / contact injuries: Direct contact and blows, including ligament sprains, dislocations and contusion injuries.
2) Non-contact injuries: Muscle or soft tissue strains, overuse injuries, tendon overload problems
The Most Common Injuries
1) Hamstring/Calf Strains
2) Groin and hip pain (overuse injury)
3) Shoulder Injuries (dislocation, Acromio-Clavicular joint)
4) Knee and Ankle Ligament Injuries
As sport has become increasingly fast paced and intense, injuries have become more common. Players are more likely to experience a range of different injuries that can often re-occur or become persistent. This is why it has become more and more important to set a solid foundation during preseason through a conditioning and injury prevention program (in addition to solid recovery plans and periodisation)
The 2 key purposes of conditioning are:
• Enhanced performance as a player and team
• Prevention of injuries
Modifiable Injury Risk Factors
Injury prevention focuses on what we can change, or what we call Modifiable Injury Risk Factors. These include:
• Lack of flexibility
• Poor Joint Stability, Balance and Control
• Poor lumbar posture and core stability
• Fatigue and weakness
• Muscle imbalances
• Inadequate warm-up
How can you improve these sports injury risk factors?
Stretching & Flexibility
• Increasing the flexibility of a muscle-tendon unit promotes better performance and decreases the number of injuries.
• This is particularly important in sports involving explosive movements, such as jumping, with high intensity short bursts (e.g. netball, soccer and football). These actions require a muscle-tendon unit that is able to store and release high amounts of energy. If muscle-tendon unit has some areas of tightness or weakness, the demands sport may exceed capacity lead to an increased risk for injury.
• Recent studies have shown that stretching programs can significantly influence the viscosity of the tendon and therefore improve its ability to handle the high intensity demands of sport. Stretching is therefore an important part of injury prevention.
• Stretching exercises should be regularly included in warm-up (dynamic stretching) and cooling-down exercises (dynamic or static), and as part of your pre-season.
Joint Stability – balance, proprioceptive and neuromuscular training
• Research has shown that variable balance, proprioceptive and neuromuscular training is effective in reducing the risk of lower limb injuries including; acute knee injuries and ankle sprain injuries.
• Balance training alone results in a significant risk reduction of ankle sprain injuries and are particularly effective in athletes with a history of sports injury.
• Proprioceptive/neuromuscular (balance) training is effective in reducing the incidence of certain types of sports injuries among adolescent and young adult athletes during pivoting.
• Programs which utilise neuromuscular training and strength training at a young age show the most promise in reducing ACL injuries.
• Training may include exercises such as; hopping, single leg balance, wobble boards, agility running and plyometric.
Lumbar, Pelvic and Core Strength and Stability
• Having a solid base is important in reducing the risk of lower limb injuries, but can also improve performance with more efficient and effective load transfer.
• Poor core activation is associated with an increase injury risk.
• Building lumbo-pelvic control and strength can reduce soft tissue injuries, including hamstring strains and reduces the rates of reoccurrence.
• Pilates style exercises are a great option for increasing our core activation, control and endurance.
• Strength training is very important in modern sports. Both for outworking your opponent, but also for injury prevention and running ability.
• Good “core” or lumbo-pelvic strength can help you keep your feet during contact and agility sports.
• With strength training, an important factor is having good balance between muscle groups, e.g. between hamstrings and quads, glutes and hamstrings.
• Improving strength will allow you to work at your best for longer, and keep you on the track throughout the season.
An appropriate sports injury prevention program can reduce your risk of acute, overload and traumatic injuries. Preventing you from missing games, lengthy rehab and potentially expensive treatment.
A great place to start is with a full assessment, to identify your risk factors and to develop a program specific for you. This should then be incorporated into your preseason and maintained across the year.
Author: Henry Pope
- Henry is a Physiotherapist at myPhysioSA in Mount Barker
- He has a keen interest in helping everyday athletes and sporty people help prevent and manage their sports injury.