For many people who play sports or are regularly active, one concern is how to avoid injury or reduce the risk of injury. Injury can occur in any sport, however, for most people the benefit to physical and mental health from exercising outweighs the risk of injury. In this blog, Claire Speer, Physiotherapy Manager at Parkside, looks at common sports and exercise-related injuries and sets out a number of tips to help prevent them.
Common exercise-related injuries
The common types of injuries that can occur vary depending on the sport or activity you are doing. Some injuries are unavoidable, but many are not, and building strength and improving flexibility is one way we can reduce risk of injury. For people new to activity, body-weight strengthening exercises or pilates are great ways of giving a good base from which to build on.
Tips to prevent injury
It is important to warm up for any activity to prepare the body for exercise. A good coach or physiotherapist can give you advice on this specific to your sport.
Consider lessons or coaching in your chosen sport to ensure your technique is not putting you at risk.
Consider the equipment you use: is your footwear appropriate for your activity? Do you have the appropriate protective equipment? Is your tennis racket the right grip size and weight for you? Have you had your bike serviced recently? For cyclists, a bikefit assessment can be hugely beneficial to eliminate niggles and discomforts on the bike, many physiotherapists and cycle shops provide this service. At Parkside Hospital, our Bike fit service is carried out by a Chartered Physiotherapist and includes a full body screen with personalised advice on exercises which can help prevent those niggles becoming injuries.
Stretching is great to do after activity, and it is important to have rest days every week to allow your body to recover and repair from exertion. Consider mixing up the type of activity you do to ensure the body is worked in a number of ways.
Diet and nutrition
Maintaining a balanced diet and staying hydrated plays an important part in keeping your body healthy and recovering from activity, as does good quality sleep. Some people find regular sports massage a useful way of recovering from heavier training sessions, this works by helping increase blood flow to the muscles and encouraging the lymphatic system to help the body rid itself of lactic acid.
Knowing when to slow down
A small amount of discomfort or stiffness is normal in muscles and joints after starting new activities, but this normally resolves within 48 hours. If this discomfort is persistent or you have severe pain on certain movements contact a health professional, such as a physiotherapist or by calling NHS 111, for help with managing this and to prevent it from worsening.
Trampolining in the garden, or playing Frisbee or rounders in the park can lead to injury as often people do not warm up or prepare their bodies for the activity. Don’t let this stop you enjoying those activities, but for the competitive amongst you, consider how hard you want to push yourself to win that game of rounders if you haven’t sprinted in the last 3 months!
If you have health concerns and have been fairly inactive, speak to your GP or a physiotherapist to determine if a new sport or activity is appropriate for you.
For most people walking, swimming and cycling are great ways of increasing your activity levels without putting yourself at too much risk of injury. The key message is to find an activity or sport you enjoy and build up your level of activity gradually.