Sports are a huge part of our lives. Whether you are an elite athlete or recreational participant, sport can bring many benefits, not only from the physical activity itself but also the social benefits of meeting with friends and the comradery sport can bring. Our physiotherapist in Cambridge will treat your sporting injuries and show you the best ways to avoid them.
Although we have outlined the many benefits of sport, it is important to recognise that sport does involve many risks to injuring our bodies. Some of these risks include direct trauma from the sport itself, injury from not preparing for exercise and warming up correctly, risks from not being in the physical shape and condition for the sporting demands placed on the body, or incorrect or poorly fitting equipment and clothing increasing the risks of being injured.
Some of the above risks are out of our control when playing sport, such as getting injured from a tackle in football. However, there are some things in our control to help mitigate the risk of getting injured due to how we prepare for playing a sport which is outlined below:
Before commencing exercise, there are some key principles that are recommended to help us prepare our body for exercising and the demands it will place on our bodies.
Below are some recommended ways to warm up before participating in your sport.
The main aim of a warm-up is to prepare your body for the sport by means of increasing the body temperature and the heart rate, which both serve to increase blood flow to the muscles. A thorough warm-up should be progressive in intensity and be sports specific and will include a mixture of cardiovascular drills, static stretching progressing to dynamic stretching and then higher intensity sport specific drills.
Static stretching alone is not recommended as a preparation for exercise without incorporating a warm-up for the muscles prior to stretching. It is more important that the stretching is functional to the demands of the sport and is therefore dynamic in nature. This type of stretching not only improves joint flexibility but improves the body’s readiness for exercise.
If you’re an active person who takes part in a specific sport on a regular basis, it is highly beneficial to maintain your fitness outside of the sport. This can be achieved by a conditioning exercise either with weights, circuit training or aerobic cardiovascular training. This will improve your strength, endurance and most importantly, it will improve your capability for exercising and competing in your sport.
By building up your muscles you’re not only improving your physical strength, but you are developing your physical ability. Muscles will protect joints to prevent them from getting damaged. For example, building up the muscle around your knee will help make the joint stronger and cushion any impact upon the knee, such as falling or landing heavily on one foot.
Even though you’re exercising, there are still areas that you need to bear in mind to ensure that you don’t damage your body.
An athlete’s performance will be seriously affected by dehydration, therefore keeping our bodies hydrated before, during and post-exercise is of crucial importance. A lack of fluid during a sporting exercise results in your body having to work harder in order to perform. Negative repercussions can occur such as overheating. With minimal water in our systems, our body will struggle to produce sweat to cool us down; further resulting in us overheating.
Wearing the Correct Equipment and Clothing
Wearing the appropriate equipment and clothing when participating in a sporting activity will help to reduce the risk of injury. This can be as simple as wearing the correct shoes for the sport and replacing when worn, to having the correct protective padding for cricket. It is of vital importance that we check our footwear for signs of wear and tear and replace any worn footwear, clothing equipment or sporting equipment that could be faulty. These factors can not only limit our sporting performance but also increase the risk of injury to ourselves and others.
Know Your Limits
When taking up a sport or physical activity, it is always good to understand your limits. Taking up a sport not knowing what your physical limitations are can have repercussions later down the line when your body starts to struggle to keep up with you. Forcing your body to do something it physically can’t, may result in injuries such as pulling or straining muscles. It is also worth noting that if you haven’t undertaken a strenuous activity for a while, that you will need to get back into it slowly. This is necessary because you will need to build up your strength and stamina again to be able to cope with the physical pressures the sport demands.
Taking regular breaks during exercise will give your body and mind the time to relax. During exercise our bodies naturally get tired, but the key is to notice when your body has had enough. Our minds are incredibly strong and will always fight and encourage us to do more; however, it is important that you listen to what your body is saying and exercise accordingly. When our bodies reach the point of physical exhaustion, our minds will continue to push the body to perform. At this stage, the body is vulnerable to injury. Make sure you take a break to rest your mind and body.
At the end of a session, there are a couple of factors that should be taken into account. The cooldown after exercise is just as important as the warm-up yet most people skip by it.
Cool Down Stretch
A proper cool-down will involve a mixture of gentle cardiovascular drills as well as gentle stretching. Stretching after exercising allows your muscles to relax and reduces muscle soreness, though it is important not to stretch to the full range after strenuous exercise as this risks further damaging the muscle fibres that have been exerted during the sporting activity. For those who are more ardent athletic competitors wanting to go the extra mile to help our bodies recover after exercise, an ice bath can be just the ticket. Ice bathing works to reduce inflammation caused by micro-trauma in the muscle fibres during strenuous exercise causing the blood vessels to constrict and aid healing. This type of recovery is known as Cryotherapy. Applying ice to the injured part of the body can help the healing process of any acute injuries or traumas an athlete has obtained from a sport.
Taking at least one day off a week from exercise is essential to give your body the opportunity to recover from a strenuous exercise. This actually benefits you both physically and mentally. Constantly doing something stops your mind from relaxing and can make you stressed without realising it. Our bodies need time to recover in order to work to their full potential. So, ensure that you’re resting each week to give your body the chance to rejuvenate. Sports physiotherapy is an excellent way to help your body cool-down and it will provide your muscles with the opportune moment to relax.
Sports injuries are very common, but there are many ways in which the athlete can help to prevent them. Being conditioned and fit for your sport will help reduce the risk of injury, similarly, having the correct equipment in good working order will do the same. Injury risks can be reduced by adopting a thorough warm-up which is progressive according to the demands of the sport as well as being sports specific with dynamic stretching. Finally, injury risks in sport can be reduced by cooling down properly and how we use our bodies when we are not competing for the rest of the week.
“Success is no accident. It is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice and most of all, love of what you are doing or learning to do” – Pele