Sports Injury Prevention

All physical exercise can hurt and cause damage to different parts of the body. Sports injury prevention is about trying to mitigate trauma to muscles, tendons, ligaments, joints, bones, and nerves when active. Preventative or rehabilitative measures include: applying safe exercise practices, using protective equipment, wearing appropriate sports clothing and footwear, trying orthotics devices, awareness of hygiene and nutrition, going on sports training courses, attending sports clinics, and consulting physiotherapists about physical techniques. These measures help budding sports men and women discover unique fitness plans to develop overall wellbeing.

Safe exercise practices

Sports people need to take responsibility for their exercise practices to optimize body strength and to reduce the risk of injury by exercising safely. Muscle imbalance, weakness and stiffness can result in injury to tendons, ligaments and bones. An experienced sports coach or trainer can provide suitable warm-up and cool-down exercises comprised of light cardiovascular stretches to increase heart rate, body temperature and blood circulation for muscle flexibility before starting a sporting activity. Similarly, cooling down the body, decreasing heart rate and circulation should follow after strenuous exercise.

Allowing time for warm-up and cool-down is essential and also starting new exercise programmes gradually to prevent pulled muscles or stress fractures. Cramps in the diaphragm or “stitches” occur if the body is highly strung when exercises are done, and can result in injury to inner organs or damage the phrenic nerve in the neck. Not training when ill, highly stressed, or fatigued is also recommended because the body is weaker and susceptible to damage.

Hygiene and nutrition

Athletes partaking in different sports have unique health needs according to their physical and biological make-up. Seeing a local physician to talk about medical history and to get a referral to a physician to discuss suitable exercise and nutrition is necessary to maintain good health. Trained sports coaches can also help athletes develop tailored diets to enhance muscle development for their specific sport.

In addition to seeking such advice, athletes often workout at public or personal gyms where hygiene is a concern, especially in warm weather. Defences to combat germs that cause illness to the body is important and can be achieved by washing the hands with warm soap and water; not touching the eyes, nose and mouth; cleaning shared things; staying hydrated; getting enough rest in practice and sleep; following a moderate or regulated exercise regime; eating healthily; avoiding excessive alcohol intake; listening to the body and seeking medical attention when needed.

Protective equipment

Physiotherapists and trained sports professionals can provide athletes with equipment for specific sports, such as cricket or tennis, that protects vulnerable parts of the body. Certain sports cause particular injuries, such as tennis elbow or shoulder injury in tennis, shin splints in or sprained ankle in athletics and knee injuries in cricket. Where joints are injured, supporting equipment such as ankle, wrist and knee braces can be worn.

Tennis players may opt for shoulder straps or wrist splints to add stability to ligaments connecting joint bones or to tendons connecting muscles to bones. In cricket, knee guards can save a players kneecap and cartilage from trauma when hit by a cricket ball or falling on the knee. Wearing helmets are advised in cycling and football where players may incur head injury or concussion. Boxers wear gum shields and gloves to protect their hands. It is recommended to find out what equipment should be worn for your sport of interest.

Appropriate sports clothing and footwear

Each sport has clothing and footwear designed for its purpose, such as tennis, cricket or golf shoes that are not the same. General athletic shoes may lack the supports needed to balance body weight for the particular sport. The fabric used to create sports clothing is also intended for the contact and flexibility needed for a particular sport's techniques.

Clothing for runners may have high cotton content to absorb moisture, gymnasts wear leotards which act like a second skin promoting agile movement whereas yoga practitioners where lightweight loose clothing for comfort, and football players wear padded gear to prevent injury during direct contact. Trends in sports dress focuses on brand, but most important is the protection and support that specially formed clothes and shoes provide relative to the sport in question.

Orthotic devices

Besides appropriate sports shoes and clothing, orthotics devices can give additional support to the muscles and joints and allow for the limbs and torso to function correctly. Orthotists use gait analysis, material engineering, physiology, anatomy and psychology to develop custom-made devices that align, support, correct and improve practice for players.

Examples are arch supports, insoles, and heel cushions made of silicone or rubber in sports shoes; ankle and knee braces; compression shorts made neoprene, groin straps and coccyx cushions in high contact sports, and thermal clothing with heat activation to keep muscles warm. Physiotherapists can give advice on current trends in orthotics and suggest relevant devices or refer to sports clinics for further information.

Sports training courses

Sports training courses may be run at local universities, sports clinics, or gyms. These courses offer valuable advice to sports people on different types of sporting activities available in the area, on recommended practices within those sports, on preparation to get involved in the sport of interest and where best to purchase items and seek professional advice.

Some of these courses may offer a module on sports injury prevention or make available unique sports injury prevention programmes for specific sports. To find out more about sports training courses, contact your local gym, college or university. Your local doctor or physiotherapist may also be able to refer you to relevant and recommended information sources for sports training.

Sports clinics and Physiotherapy

Sports injury clinics are usually a part of health surgeries in the UK and abroad where healthcare professionals may specialise in sports injuries, physiotherapy, clinical pilates and acupuncture.

These clinics also provide health and injury assessments, diagnosis, and rehabilitative treatments by professionals who are chartered and HPC registered physiotherapists with an approximate four year degree in specialising in sports injuries, and continued professional development or post-graduate training. Health insurance policies usually cover the costs for attendance at such clinics and individuals can refer themselves to a chartered physiotherapist without seeing a local practitioner first.

Treatments provided may include soft tissue massage, hot or cold compressions or therapies, electrotherapy, acupuncture, taping, ergonomics, posture management, joint and spinal manipulation, personalised exercise therapy and rehabilitation. Most important is the advice and education specific to types of sports that these professionals can offer to reduce the risk of sports injuries.

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