The start of the winter sports season is fast approaching! Everyone is busy sorting out new uniforms and checking whether their shoes fit; but many of us are not doing anything to prepare our bodies.
Many sports injuries are a result of our bodies not having adequate strength, endurance, coordination or mobility to cope with the activities and sports we participate in. You wouldn't run a marathon without completing a training program, so why wouldn’t you train to run up and down a field for weekend sport? By doing little or no pre-season preparation, you are living up to the adage 'if you fail to prepare, prepare to fail'.
Our muscles, joints and soft tissues can manage a certain amount of load before damage occurs. This is individual and depends on the loads you have exposed yourself to in the past. For example, if you can normally comfortably run 2 km and do this regularly, you know that you can safely do up to 2 km without risking injury. If you don’t exercise regularly and spend much of your week sitting, then participating in sports requires so much more than your average day. For example, the average distance run in a game is:
Due to the added strain on the body you are more likely to injure yourself if unprepared. The common injuries we see in our clinic in the first few months after winter sports start are hamstring tears, Achilles tendinopathy, shin splints, plantar fasciitis, lower back pain, rotator cuff tendinopathies and patella femoral pain syndromes. All of these will occur if your muscles aren’t strong, long or coordinated enough to cope with the sport you participate in.
Training over the pre-season will allow your body to adapt to an increased load and prepare your body for the demands of your sport in the upcoming season. This will not only decrease your risk of injury but will also make you a better player!
How Can You Prepare?
Increase endurance - The majority of winter sports require you to run on and off for prolonged periods. Overuse injuries are caused by increasing your load too much too quickly, with your body unable to keep up! Improving your endurance will decrease the risk. Start building endurance by going for regular runs. Start with a short distance or time and gradually add a small amount until you can run comfortably for the duration of what your sport requires.
Strengthen your core - A strong core is essential for all sports, for lower back health and increased stability and balance. Pilates is a very good way at learning to incorporate your core with everyday movements.
General strengthening – We all have our limits as to what our muscles can handle. For rugby players, the strength needed to go into a tackle can be 5-7 times the strength you would use in your daily activities. To lower your risk of injury, determine the strength that your sport requires and gradually build your training up to this.
Improve proprioception and coordination – During sport, or even doing simple activities such as walking, your brain continually processes sensory information – this is called proprioception. When the ability to interpret and integrate this information into actions is decreased, we are at an increased risk of injury. To help prevent this declining, especially after the age of 25, it is important to continually practice balance and coordination. Start your balance exercises with something as simple as standing on one foot and progress from there.
Increase flexibility – Movements in sport often require you to go to the end of range available at a joint. If your muscles are short and now allowing much movement, you risk an injury to the muscles or joints being over stretched, especially with quick or forceful movements. Stretching the hamstrings will decrease the chances of getting a hamstring muscle tear and keeping your back mobile will decrease the chances of an unusual position in a tackle resulting in pain and injury. For further information on stretching, read our blog titled ‘Stretching 101’.
If you play a winter sport and need advice on any of the above please do not hesitate to book an appointment with us.
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Miller T (2013) Which sports run the most? Stats on football, basketball, soccer and tennis show who burn the most shoe leather, New York Daily News, April 4.