Injury prevention – it’s all about your preparationNational Pharmacies
Whatever exercise you adopt, whether you are trying a new sport, restarting after a break or aiming to extend yourself with a new goal, there are many things to consider before commencing your new routine.
Injury prevention may not be the first item on your list, particularly if your chosen exercise is part of a bid to improve health, fitness and wellbeing. However, with appropriate planning and preparation, injuries can be prevented.
So, what do you need to do to ensure you can continue to exercise safely, minimising the opportunity for injury? Here’s a few ideas for you to consider:
If you are taking up an exercise routine for the first time, or returning after a prolonged break it’s important to consider what sort of exercise will be best suited for you. If you have a pre-existing medical problem of any sort you should discuss this with your GP or specialist, particularly if there are restrictions in what you are safely able to do. Some medications can influence exercise capacity and alternatives may be available. If you are returning to sport after an injury or illness your GP or physiotherapist can assess your aims to avoid further problems.
If you are taking up a team sport, talk to an experienced coach or player about the physical demands of the sport. How much training is required? Is there a pre-season commitment? Is there someone available to help you with the technical requirements of your sport? It’s important that you have the time to complete all the preparation necessary for a team sport.
If you prefer an individual sport you could start with a personal coach to ensure technique and training is appropriate.
Not all of your equipment needs to be brand new, however you should consider your footwear. Foot and lower limb stress injuries are a common occurrence as a result of running or training in old or worn shoes. Investing in a decent pair of shoes tailored for you and your exercise and/or sport demands is well worth it.
Regardless of what you have chosen to do, it is most important to have a planned approach to training. One of the common reasons for injury is simply doing too much on the first outing. Deciding to run up Mt Lofty on day 1 of a fitness program might seem like a good idea, but can result in a long list of potential injuries. Gradual introduction of any exercise in a planned manner is key to limiting early injury. Sports specific training advice is available from a number of sources, e.g. coaches, sporting federations, local sporting clubs, club trainers, physiotherapists and exercise physiologists. The expertise is available…don’t be afraid to ask for it!
This is the most overlooked area for the amateur athlete or ’weekend warrior’. It is essential to establish a warm down routine, including stretches, after each session. The hydration message has been well received, however adequate refuelling (food intake) after exercise is sometimes ignored. You should include a carbohydrate and protein snack within 30 minutes of completing your session. Plan a recovery exercise session, eg a swim, a beach walk, a massage or a yoga class. Ensuring that you have recovered well from one training or exercise session will help to prevent injuries and allow you to be at your best for your next session.
Seeking professional help and advice early after experiencing physical pain associated with exercise for any reason is important. It is much easier to treat a problem before it has become established, resulting in faster recovery and a quicker return to exercise. Pushing through pain, hoping that everything will simply get better is rarely helpful.
Injury prevention is about exercising within your capabilities, following a suitable training plan and seeking prompt advice if a problem presents.
For more information visit the SA Sports Medicine Association website: www.sasma.com.au or visit your local National Pharmacies store to pick up a brochure.
Dr Bridget Sawyer, Medical Director, SA Sports Medicine Association
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