Sport Injury Prevention
Sport injury prevention is key to a successful season. Exposure to potential injury is a natural part of competition among athletes. All activities stress structures and tissues of the body. Controlling those stresses is a primary concern in injury prevention.
Most injuries are preventable if the common causes of the injuries are understood and proper training, coaching and officiating are in place.
The simplest way to treat an injury is to prevent it from occurring in the first place. Not all injuries are preventable; however, the majority of injuries in sport are preventable. Early recognition of the signs and symptoms of injuries helps to prevent a minor injury from becoming a major injury.
Prevention of sport injuries includes and is not limited to proper dynamic warm up, warm down/cool down, strength, power, flexibility, endurance and positive mind set. Injury prevention starts before the athlete begins his or her activity.
An athlete must be declared physically fit to participate in his or her chosen sport. A Pre-season Medical screens the athlete for potential problems that may predispose them to injury. Pre-season screening includes sport specific stress testing. A soccer player’s stress is different from a swimmer’s.
A Pre-season Medical alerts the person in charge of medical care about any potential medical problems the athlete might have. The medical team must be aware of this information so that they may respond to a medical emergency in the proper manner. This would include the following: asthma, diabetes, cardiac (heart murmur), allergies (anaphylactic shock), previous concussion(s), reconstructive surgery and previous injuries.
All equipment must fit properly. Is all equipment worn in practice or just games? Is equipment different for practice, training and game? Equipment that does not fit properly does not protect the athlete adequately and may cause injury to another athlete. All equipment must be checked and maintained properly on a regular basis.
Equipment must be kept clean and sanitary. Dirty equipment may cause infection, rashes and other skin conditions. Any earrings, nose studs and other piercing should be removed. The same goes for bracelets, necklaces and watches. Laces must be tied up! Furthermore players with vision problems must wear sports glasses or contacts!
Prior to any games or practices all facilities must be inspected. This includes filling in potholes on sport fields and eliminating glass and plastic bottles. Also loose equipment in indoor facilities must be secured. Sidelines must be properly marked. This also includes choice of training facility. There are several indoor surfaces that have carpet covering cement. These types of surfaces are very bad to play on. Muscles in the body must spend more energy absorbing the landing forces on contact. Continuous or repetitive training on this type of surface eventually causes breakdown of muscle and tendon tissue leading to overuse injuries. It is common for sport athletes to complain about shin, knee and back pain while training on this type of surface.
The current trend now is to go with artificial turf for both indoor and outdoor surfaces. There is more give with this type of surface; however one must be aware that the surface is not too soft. If the surface is too soft the foot may have a delayed reaction when leaving the ground causing additional stress and torque on the knee which may lead to problems at the knee or foot.
All facilities should have emergency exits and fire alarm system with sprinklers. All facilities should have clearly marked exits, fire extinguishers and an existing emergency action plan.
4. CONDITIONING for Sport Injury Prevention
Conditioning for the prevention of injury is vital and must include the following: strength, dynamic flexibility, endurance, balance and coordination. Rest and sleep are very important to injury prevention
Strength – “Sport specific” strength is necessary to prevent injury. Strength training in sport may be position specific. Athletes need to have a good base of strength to be able to develop power, strength and endurance.
Dynamic Flexibility– Athletes with active limited range of motion predispose themselves to injury by moving their muscles through an untrained range of motion. Muscle strains, ligament sprains and inadequate performance result. It is important for athletes to have functional range of motion for muscles in the groin area, the hamstrings, quads and calf muscles.
Endurance – Sport and position specific muscular and cardio-respiratory endurance allows the athlete to compete at their highest level from beginning to end. A tired athlete is predisposed to injury because they have difficulty maintaining proper technique, balance and coordination at a peak level and therefore falter.
Balance – Body awareness and balance are learned skills. This occurs with practice and ties in with coordination. This becomes an unconscious effort after a period of time.
Coordination – Athletes who do not have the skills and coordination required for their sport predispose themselves to injury by attempting drills and activities that they are not prepared for. It is important for the athlete to be technically strong with his/her skills. This would include cutting, cross-overs and side to side actions. Furthermore good technical skill allows the athlete to be economical with the energy they use and conserve.
5. DYNAMIC WARM UP
A dynamic warm up prepares the athlete in a slow, gradual controlled way. This will include movements that are used in a sport game. These types of movements focus on dynamic range of motion. An example of this is bringing the heels to the buttocks or raising the knee to hip height then moving the knee away from the body as in opening up to receive a pass.
6. WARM DOWN /COOL DOWN
A proper warm down/cool down helps to keep the mind, body and spirit connection alive and kicking. In team sports it may contribute to player bonding. This may include some form of a light jog, walk, dynamic stretching and static stretching.
Proper nutritional habits formed on a daily basis maintain body function, minimize fatigue and decrease recovery time from injury. Athletes consuming pop and chips on a regular basis tend to fade towards the end of the game.
Athletes, coaches and officiating staff must be educated in injury prevention, care and treatment. They should know the difference between minor and major injuries. Referees must officiate in a firm and fair manner with the ability to enforce the rules (e.g., tackling, hitting from behind).
Coaches who consult with their medical team on a regular basis have a much better understanding of their athletes’ condition and recovery time. It is strongly advised that all coaches and parents involved with their sport teams have First Aid and CPR training. Parents should also understand the consequences of early specialization and exclusivity for one sport at a young age (see appendix D).
9. SLEEP for Sport Injury Prevention
Sleep in today’s environment is taken for granted. Poor sleep leads to poorer and slower reaction time. It can also lead to poor judgement. These two things create an environment for an injury to occur.
Sleep is when the body grows and heals. Not getting enough sleep interferes with these processes.
Finally, these are just a few ideas / suggestions for injury prevention. Each sport, club or team has its own set of injury prevention guidelines they follow.
Please keep in mind that injury prevention is proactive and its purpose is to minimize the opportunity for injury.