Guest post by:

Kathleen Choate, ATC, CSCS, CEAS
Athletic Trainer
MUSC Health Sports Medicine

No one likes being injured.  It's painful, expensive, takes time away from the sports we love, affects our daily life, and can even lead to pain and disability later in life.  Wouldn't it be nice if we could enjoy the sports we love without this risk?  While it isn't possible to completely eliminate the risk, there are ways to prevent them.

Stretch

            Before participating in physical activity, a good warm-up should be in order.  Both static and dynamic stretches are acceptable prior to participation, but you may choose one or the other depending what your goal is. Stratching on track

            Static stretches involve holding a muscle in a lengthened position for an extended period of time.  For example, a static stretch could include sitting on the ground in a pike position with legs fully extended, reach for your toes, and hold it for 30 seconds.  If you choose to primarily use static stretching prior to physical activity, try to incorporate things like jogging, jumping jacks, or squats to increase your body temperature.

            Dynamic stretches involve bringing a muscle through a full range of motion; it comes with an active movement that should be slow and controlled.  One benefit of using dynamic stretching over static stretching is that it also increases your body temperature, which helps to increase elasticity of the muscles right before physical activity.  An example of a dynamic stretch would include slow and controlled lunges with a straight instead of bent back knee. 

            Ballistic stretches involves a bouncing motion at the end range of a stretch and should not be used as a way to warm-up since it is likely to lead to a muscle strain.  Regardless of your warm-up, remember that it should never be painful.

Equipment

            Proper equipment should be a no-brainer with any sport.  Runners need shoes, football players need helmets, pads, and mouth guards, and wrestlers need headgear.  Not only are these pieces of equipment necessary to be worn, but they should also be fitted correctly.

            Shoes are especially important for sports with a high volume of running including cross country, track and field, soccer, field hockey, and basketball.  While quality shoes are pricey, they are the only piece of equipment a runner needs.  Running is a fairly straightforward movement compared to other sports.  It involves a series of repetitive movements over the course of several miles.  If your feet hit the pavement 1,000 times in one mile, then a faulty running gait or a worn out pair of shoes can cause injuries anywhere from your feet to your back.  It can be difficult to spend our hard earned money on a pair of running shoes; however this investment can prevent you from having to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars at the doctor’s office.  Since shoe needs are going to vary from person to person, consult with your Athletic Trainer for guidance prior to making this purchase.  Also, plan to replace your shoes every 300-500 miles.

Technique

            Have your coaches ever sounded like a broken record?  Maybe they told you ten times in one practice to follow through, keep your head up, or to bend your knees more.  Good technique doesn't just make you a throw a ball better, score more points, or run faster; it prevents injury.  The more obvious injuries are the ones that happen when a movement is performed incorrectly one time and sudden pain is felt.  The injuries that creep up on you are ones that arise from consistently flawed technique.  Next time your coach tells you to correct a motion, do everything in your power to fix it the first time!

Rest

            Rest is the word athletes never want to hear, but it's vital to preventing injury.  Give yourself at least one day off a week to let your body recover.  This may seem like slacking to some, but it will prevent overuse injuries and burnout. 

            As athletes, it’s tempting to play through pain, especially during a game.  The pain level may feel tolerable, and you don’t want to let your teammates down.  Choosing to continue to participate with a possible injury will most likely make the injury worse and recovery time longer.

Strength and Conditioning

            Condition your body for the sport you are participating in.  A great strength and conditioning program will vary depending on your age, level of training, sport, and time of year.  A strength and conditioning specialist is your best resource to put a conditioning program together with all factors considered.

Athletic Trainers

            Athletic Trainers are often thought of as the person that runs onto the field when a player gets hurt.  That may be when we are viewed most publicly; however we have many other roles with regards to injury management, including (but not limited to) preventing the injury from happening in the first place.  Consult with your Athletic Trainer about injury prevention to identify a plan that is specific to you as an individual.

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