Sports injuries can be a major setback for athletes, oftentimes causing them to skip an entire play season and spending months or years catching up to their competitors.
Thankfully, the prevalence of sports injuries has an inverse relationship with sport injury awareness. Even though football players, for example, tend to get the most concussions of any high school sport, an increase in concussion awareness leaves more resources for injury recovery.
Despite this increase in awareness, it’s important to take steps to prevent injuries and stay healthy. Whether you’re a college pro or a weekend 3-pointer, here are 10 tips athletes of all levels can use to help avoid sports-related injuries:
Warm-up before you start
Before starting any physical activity, it is essential to warm-up. Warming up increases blood flow to your muscles and prepares them for the physical demands of exercise. It also reduces the risk of muscle strain and injury.
Low-intensity work that relates to the sport or exercise you’re doing will also increase your range of motion and mind-body nerve connection, studies have shown. This will ensure you’re performing at your best when it truly matters.
Use proper equipment
Even during the most casual of weekend games, using the right equipment for your sport is crucial in preventing injuries. Make sure you have the right shoes, protective gear, and clothing. Your equipment should also be in good condition and properly fitted to ensure the best protection.
Whether or not you find your equipment fashionable, you generally won’t be allowed in games without it anyway. You might as well ‘own’ your equipment and add a sweatband or compression sleeve.
Listen to your body
Pay attention to your body and how it feels. If you experience pain, discomfort, or fatigue, take a break. Rest is essential for preventing injuries and allowing your body to recover.
Gradually increase intensity
During the first few minutes of a new game, gradually increase the intensity of your movements. Sudden changes in activity levels can lead to injury, and in competition, using up your stamina too early can cause burnout later in the game. Cross-country is a great example of a sport that values stamina; runners don’t typically do a full sprint until the final stretch.
A gradual intensity increase also helps calibrate your body for more repetitive and accurate movements.
There’s countless benefits to drinking water. It’s crucial for preventing cramps and heat exhaustion. Be sure to drink plenty of water before, during, and after physical activity.
However, also keep in mind it’s possible to be overhydrated as well. Drinking too much water can cause cramps, headaches, nausea, and vomiting. The best way to prevent overhydration is using your thirst cues, and avoiding an excess of 1 liter of water per hour.
Cross-training varies your physical fitness by combining different exercise activities. All effective cross training programs have three exercise components:
- Aerobic exercise, which improves your cardiovascular system.
- Strength training, which develops muscle, and
- Flexibility exercises, which keeps muscles loose and agile.
It can help prevent overuse injuries by working different muscle groups and reducing the repetitive stress on any one area of the body.
Get Enough Rest
Rest, recover, repair. Be sure to get enough sleep and take time off from physical activity to allow your body to heal. Avid athletes may want to look into massages, saunas and other therapeutic methods for an accelerated and more intense recovery.
Work with a trainer
Working with a qualified athletic trainer or coach can help ensure you are using proper technique and form both on and off the field, reducing your risk of sports-related injuries.
Know your limits
Amateur athletes are often tempted to push themselves too hard and too quickly: Don’t fall into this trap. Be aware of your limitations and avoid overexertion.
A popular and well-earned philosophy among sports enthusiasts involves pushing and surpassing your limits as an athlete, but overtraining is dangerously similar to this mindset. Always make sure you’re following a proper regimen as you advance your skillsets.
Cool down after exercise
Just like warming up before exercise, cooling down after physical activity is important to prevent injury. A proper cool down helps to lower the heart rate and prevent blood pooling in the muscles. It can also help to reduce muscle soreness and stiffness the following day. Take a few minutes to stretch and relax after exercise to ensure a proper cool down.