The beginning of athletic seasons often sees a host of new injuries. Athletes push their bodies to the extreme in the hopes of gaining an edge over their competition. However, when that competitive drive isn’t coupled with good preventative measures, more injuries than usual may result. Appropriate practices and equipment can help to prevent the most common sports injuries.
Warm up routines can include everything from jumping jacks to light jogging or other cardiovascular exercises. A good warm up should increase the heart rate as well as get blood and oxygen flowing to all parts of the body preparing it to begin more strenuous exercise.
As the muscle temperature increases so does the range of motion and elasticity both of which help prevent injuries during competition. Muscles are less likely to get strained or tear if they are able to flex easily throughout their full range of motion. A simple 5 – 10 minute warm up like jogging, riding an exercise bike, or elliptical should be enough to prepare the body for stretching.
Stretching the muscles before and after exercising can help keep them remain strong and flexible. Stretching reduces tension in the muscles preventing injuries that occur because the muscle is not ready to perform its full range of motion. Blood circulation increases to the muscles and can increase energy levels as the body prepares itself for competition.
According to Texas Orthopedics, best stretching practices should include stretching both sides of the body equally, slow movements, avoiding bouncing or jerking, and not stretching to the point of pain. Be sure to breathe deeply while stretching to help the body relax and fully extend.
Wearing the appropriate equipment can help keep the number of injuries down. Equipment in good condition for each sport such as helmets for baseball, shin guards for soccer, and wrist guards for gymnastics are meant to protect vulnerable areas during competition.
If an athlete has a previous injury, such as an ankle sprain, using braces to support the weakened ligaments and muscles can help prevent further injury. Only return to competition if and when the body has healed from the previous injury.
Many athletic injuries occur because of muscle imbalance and weakness. For example, weak quadriceps can lead to knee pain. Strong muscles help keep joints stable and the body correctly aligned during athletic events.
Some areas of the body may begin to develop more strength than others due to the kind of movement required during a particular sport. This can lead to injury because the support muscles may not be strong enough to withstand the movements if they come into use during competition. Leading to injury caused by the joints being pulled unnaturally because one group of muscles is stronger than the opposing set of muscles. A balanced strength training program is the answer to keeping the body balanced and in good working order.
Overuse and fatigue can cause injury as well. Appropriate rest before an athletic competition allows the body time to heal and strengthen itself. Many athletes have trouble taking a day off because they feel they will fall behind their competition but when the body isn’t given the time it needs to make repairs, it is more likely to underperform and get injured.
During recovery time, the body builds muscle and gets stronger. Energy reserves are replenished as well. Adequate rest before a competition can allow the body to perform at peak efficiency. Breaks during competition and practices are also key to letting the body adapt and recover for best performance.
A key component of effective recovery is drinking enough water as the body cannot perform at its best if it is dehydrated. Drink water before, during, and after exercise for maximum benefits.