Playing sports is something that’s supposed to be incredibly good for you. You build muscle, you burn fat and you generally increase your fitness – all of this while spending time outside and getting fresh air in many cases. Unfortunately though, playing sports can sometimes also have the opposite effect, and there are a number of common injuries associated with a range of sports that can have an adverse effect on your ability to exercise or even go through your daily life.
Among these common sports injuries are:
- Tennis Elbow
- Runner’s Knee
- Golfer’s Elbow
- Athlete’s Foot
And there are plenty more too (though athlete’s foot is a skin condition more than an ‘injury’). While none of these are particularly life threatening, any of them can stop you from being able to enjoy the sport you love and ultimately result in a more sedate lifestyle and potential weight gain.
So how do you go about avoiding these conditions? Well, all of them are different so obviously the approach is going to vary in each case, but in any case there are certain precautions that will help regardless of the sport or injury you’re catering for. Here are some of the best ways to avoid sports injuries…
Drink Lots of Water: Dehydration is a common problem among athletes and can result in a large number of issues. When we are dehydrated this impairs our ability to think and react freely, and it also makes us more likely to develop cramp and other problems. Drinking water regularly is a good way to prevent this problem.
Warm Up/Stretching: Warming up is one of the most important ways to prevent sports injuries and is something that every athlete should know to do before physical activity. Warming up helps to encourage circulation through our body and also makes our tendons and muscles more supple so that you are less likely to pull or sprain them.
Just as important as warming up though is warming up well so make sure you know what you are doing and find a routine that works for you. Stretching too much, or ‘bouncing’ into a stretch can also place unwanted stress on your joints and on your connective tissue and this will actually make you more likely to hurt yourself.
Technique: One of the most common issues that lead to sports injuries is simply neglecting to use the correct technique while performing the sport or event. Many runners for instance don’t realise that they should be running on the balls of their feet rather than on their heels, or that they aren’t keeping their feet completely flat when they run on them. Take time to really assess your technique, and speak with experts to make sure that you aren’t inadvertently doing yourself damage.
Reduce Impact: While a pulled muscle or sprained joint can quickly bench you from your favourite sport, what’s more of a gradual problem is impact. If you run on concrete for instance then you will be repeatedly jolting your knees and your spine. Likewise if you do gymnastics you’ll often be landing from a height causing a shockwave to pulse through your body.
Some of this comes down to technique, and if you do gymnastics properly you should have been taught landing techniques that will enable you to absorb some of the impact, while running correctly on the balls of your feet (look up ‘chi running’) will do the same. However you can also reduce impact by opting to use thicker crash mats, by using more cushioned shoes, or by running on grass or sand.
Don’t ‘Lock Out’: When you play a game like tennis or golf, or practice martial arts on your own, you are still susceptible to impact on your joints. You might wonder how this could be the case seeing as you don’t really make contact in the same way with any surface, but in fact that contact comes from locking your own joints. If you punch all the way out, then your elbow will impact on itself when your arm is completely straight, and the same can go for kicking a ball and extended your leg fully. Make sure you train then to maintain a small amount of bend in your joints and this will prevent you from doing unnecessary damage.
Get a Sports Massage: Generally ‘looking after yourself’ can also make a big difference and one of the easiest ways to do this is with a sports massage. Take some time out occasionally for a hot sauna and then let a professional go to work on your back and limbs. They’ll be able to remove knots and other issues that can otherwise lead to problems later down the line. It’s tough work but someone’s got to do it…
Use the Best Equipment: We’ve already mentioned that the right running shoes can help you absorb impact when running, and there are many other ways that other equipment can also help you to avoid injury whether that’s using a gum shield when you’re playing rugby or pads when you’re sparring. Make sure you invest in the best equipment here to protect your health.
Train Light: When you’re training whether it’s for a sports event or a marathon, make sure that you don’t go too hard too fast and leave yourself unable to perform on the big day. There’s no point doing rough tackles while training or running the full distance of a marathon because it will only take you out of the game when it counts.
Give Yourself Time to Recover: And if you do get some kind of sports injury, make sure that you give yourself the time you need to recover. Don’t jump straight back into training without so much as a day off – all this will do is force you to take more days out later on. Take the proper time that you need to heal, elevate your affected area and ice it, and that way you’ll be back in the game in no time.