It’s that great time of year again when the football seasons are all starting to kick off. Everyone is motivated to start the season strong and put all that hard pre-season training to the test.

Unfortunately, we also see a lot of injuries around this time of year. Some injuries are unavoidable in contact sports; however, many injuries can be prevented with the right advice, preparation, and monitoring.

  • We also know that you increase your chances of achieving your performance goals when you complete more than 80% of your training sessions.
  • In other words: if you want to win, you need to train and not get sick or injured.

Prevention is a much more effective strategy than cure. Therefore, it is important to understand the factors that contribute to your risk of injury and how to prevent them.

Biomechanical and musculoskeletal factors

These are the physical factors that contribute to your risk of injury. These factors include your strength, flexibility, co-ordination, muscle activation and genetics.

Some athletes are naturally strong or flexible, while others need to put in more effort to improve these areas. A musculoskeletal screening with a Physiotherapist or an assessment by an Exercise Physiologist or strength and conditioning coach can help to identify any areas that need addressing and potential injuries you are at risk of sustaining.

They can also provide you with an individualised program to help you reduce your risk of injuries and achieve your performance goals.

Warming up

Despite most people knowing they should warm up before playing sport, it surprises us how many people do not complete a proper warm-up or any warm-up at all.

It’s the same as starting your car on a frosty Canberra morning – if you start driving before the engine has had a chance to warm up, even if nine times out of ten you don’t notice any difference, you’re putting yourself at risk of damaging the engine or even breaking down.

Effective warmups should include a mix of aerobic exercises, dynamic stretches, plyometrics, agility and strength exercises.

The benefits of a good warm-up include:

  • Increased blood flow to your muscles.
  • Increased flexibility of muscles.
  • Improved lubrication of joints.
  • Increased neural firing.
  • Increased co-ordination.
  • Mental preparation.

It is important to remember that warm-ups are necessary for training as well as for games, even those players coming off the bench and returning from half time.

Sport-specific programs

Several sports have warm-up or general injury prevention programs that have been developed by regulatory bodies and have been shown to reduce injuries if performed regularly throughout the season. Some examples of these types of programs are:

A Physiotherapist or Exercise Physiologist can help provide training for clubs, coaches and athletes to implement these programs throughout sporting clubs.

Recovery

Recovery is just as important as training and it is very simple:

  1. Train/Play.
  2. Eat.
  3. Rest.
  4. Sleep.
  5. Repeat.

Training is most effective when you have scheduled regular recovery/rest days. Your body needs time to recover and repair to improve strength and performance. Some recovery options include:

  • Active recovery such as a swim, cycle or walk.
  • Hot/cold therapy.
  • Massage.

Sleep

Sleep is the single most important factor for your recovery. Not only does sleep assist with muscle and bone repair and growth, but it also aids in mental recovery. It has been shown that if you sleep 8-10 hours per night, you are significantly less likely to be injured, so it’s very important to avoid sacrificing your sleep for other forms of recovery.

Going to bed earlier is more beneficial than sleeping in, and if you are napping throughout the day, you should limit these to 20-30 minutes.

Nutrition and hydration

Eating and proper hydration are essential for effective recovery. Nutrition is extremely important to athletes for their recovery and performance, but sometimes it can be difficult to find the right balance. Different nutrition is appropriate at different times, and it’s crucial for athletes to eat the correct food in the correct portions.

Generally, it’s a good idea to limit saturated fats and refined sugars, instead looking for opportunities to eat a healthy amount of good fats and natural sugars, such as the sugars found in fruit.

If you need detailed nutrition advice, see a sports dietician to get recommendations for your specific situation.

Lifestyle

Lifestyle factors, such as prolonged postures when not playing sport and stress, can increase your risk of injury. A physiotherapist can advise on a good desk setup to reduce the impact of these postures.

A sudden increase in your training load, or coming into a session under-prepared, can increase your risk of an overload injury. It is helpful to monitor how much you are training and playing to help recognise any potential training loading issues. An Exercise Physiologist, Strength and Conditioning Coach, or a Sports Physiotherapist can help you monitor your load and avoid overload injuries.

 

To all our social and competitive athletes, good luck this year! Take care of yourselves and if you need some extra care, get in touch with the SportsCare and Physiotherapy team on 1800 001 500 or visit our website.

References:

1. Raysmith BP, Drew MK. Performance success or failure is influenced by weeks lost to injury and illness inelite Australian track and field athletes: A 5-year prospective study. J Sci Med Sport (2016), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jsams.2015.12.515ARTICLE IN PRESSG ModelJSAMS-1267; No. of Pages 66 B.P. Raysmith, M.K. Drew / Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport xxx (2016)

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