A Quick Guide to Sports Injury Prevention | Norton Sports Performance Louisville, Ky.

A quick guide to sports injury prevention tips

Sports injury prevention is a priority whether you’ve joined your first sports team, you are incorporating regular exercise into your wellness routine or you’ve been an athlete for years.

“Physical activity plays a crucial role in sports injury prevention. Engaging in regular physical activity not only improves overall fitness and performance, but also helps reduce the risk of sports-related injuries,” said Nathan L. McKinney, D.O., orthopedic sports medicine specialist with Norton Orthopedic Institute and Norton Sports Health.

Preventing sports injuries is all about maintaining an ongoing training program that includes:

  • Solid strength training throughout the year, including plyometrics and balance exercises
  • Gradual progression of weights and repetitions
  • Time off between seasons if you play organized sports; cross-training or adding variety to your workouts if you do not play organized sports all year long

Five sports injury prevention tips

  • Have a physical exam before a sports season starts or before starting a new exercise regimen.
  • Stay hydrated. Drink water before, during and after your workout or practice.
  • Stay in shape throughout the year. Sports injury rates are higher among athletes who have not prepared physically.
  • Be aware of field conditions, such as mud, holes, or goals and other objects that might be unstable.
  • Pay attention to the weather, especially excessive heat and humidity , which can bring on heat illness.

Plyometrics and balance exercises

Plyometrics, or plyo, is jump training. Doing high-intensity jumping and hopping exercises can strengthen and shape your muscles. You already should be fit before beginning plyo; it is not for people just beginning an exercise program. A plyo session can be done as an alternative to strength training to add variety. It helps build balance and agility in addition to improving leg strength.

Why are balance exercises important? They help prevent falls, which lessens the likelihood of a sports injury. Building up your balance helps you easily recover from a push, a misstep over uneven terrain or anything that might knock you off-center. One-legged stands and single-leg deadlifts are effective balance exercises. Yoga also is great for improving balance. Balance exercises don’t need to be done every day, but they should supplement regular physical activity at least once a week.

Progress gradually

When it comes to getting the most out of weightlifting, it’s all about building muscle through gradual increases in weight and repetitions. Adding too much weight or too many repetitions sets your muscles up for injury. For optimal sports performance, weightlifting should progress in the following way:

  1. Start with a weight you can lift comfortably at first, but which becomes a challenge by the sixth or seventh repetition. Try for eight reps. Rest 1 minute and do another set of eight reps. Rest 1 minute and repeat for a third set.
  2. When three sets of eight reps is no longer a challenge, move to three sets of 10 reps, then three sets of 12 reps.
  3. When three sets of 12 reps is no longer a challenge, increase the weight by the smallest increment possible and begin again with three sets of eight reps.
  4. Repeat this incremental process as often as you are capable.

Take time off

If you play more than one sport per year, take at least one season off. Overuse injuries happen when athletes don’t give their bodies a break.

An overuse injury in sports refers to damage or harm caused to a specific part of the body due to repetitive and excessive strain or stress over a period of time. It typically occurs when an athlete consistently performs the same movement or activity without giving the body enough time to recover and heal. Overuse injuries are common in sports that involve repetitive motions, such as running, jumping, throwing or swinging. They can affect various areas of the body, including muscles, tendons, ligaments and bones. If left untreated, overuse injuries can lead to chronic pain, inflammation and impaired performance.

Proper training techniques, rest periods and gradual progression in sports activities are important in preventing these types of injuries. After a period of inactivity, get back into the sport gradually through aerobic conditioning, strength training and agility training.

Variety is key

You can improve performance by balancing your usual training with cross-training and rest days. Cross-training with low-impact activities can prevent sports injuries while building muscles that may be neglected during your usual training. It’s also a good time to focus on improving flexibility. Add some of these cross-training activities into your regular routine:

  1. Cycling or spinning
  2. Pilates
  3. Swimming
  4. Elliptical machine

10 most common sports injuries

Understanding the types of sports injuries that athletes commonly experience can help in injury prevention strategies and in getting prompt treatment if one occurs.

Here are some of the most common sports injuries:

  1. Sprained ankle: Ankle sprains are common in sports that involve running, jumping or quick changes in direction. This injury occurs when the ligaments that stabilize the ankle are stretched or torn.
  2. Muscle strain: Muscle strains can happen in any sport that involves repetitive or sudden movements. These injuries occur when muscle fibers are overstretched or torn, leading to pain, swelling and limited mobility.
  3. Knee injuries: The knee is a complex joint and can be susceptible to various injuries. One common knee injury is a tear of the anterior cruciate ligament, often resulting from sudden stops or changes in direction. Other knee injuries include meniscus tears and patellofemoral pain syndrome.
  4. Shinsplints: Shinsplints cause pain along the shinbone and are common in activities that involve running or jumping. This injury often is caused by overuse or repetitive stress on the muscles, tendons and bone tissues in the lower leg.
  5. Tennis elbow/golfer’s elbow: Also known as lateral epicondylitis (tennis elbow) and medial epicondylitis (golfer’s elbow), these injuries cause pain and inflammation in the tendons of the forearm. They often are caused by repetitive motions, such as swinging a tennis racket or golf club.
  6. Concussions: Concussions can occur in contact sports such as football, soccer or hockey. These head injuries should be taken seriously, as they can have long-term effects on brain function. Symptoms include headaches, dizziness, confusion and memory issues.
  7. Shoulder injuries: The shoulder joint is vulnerable to injuries such as dislocations, rotator cuff tears and shoulder impingement syndrome. Overuse, repetitive motions and direct impact can contribute to these injuries.
  8. Stress fractures: Stress fractures are tiny cracks in the bone caused by repetitive stress or overuse. These injuries are common in athletes who participate in high-impact sports like long-distance running, basketball or gymnastics.
  9. Hamstring strains: Hamstring strains occur when the muscles at the back of the thigh are overstretched or torn. They are common in sports that involve sprinting or explosive movements, such as soccer or track and field.
  10. Achilles tendinitis: Achilles tendinitis is the inflammation of the Achilles tendon, which connects the calf muscles to the heel bone. This injury often occurs due to overuse or improper footwear and can cause pain, swelling and limited ankle mobility.

Understanding these common sports injuries can help athletes, coaches, athletic trainers and health care professionals develop effective injury prevention strategies. It’s important to prioritize proper warmups, conditioning exercises, technique training and using appropriate protective gear to minimize the risk of these injuries.

Perform your best with proper injury prevention

Sports injury prevention is a proactive approach that requires dedication and consistency. By being careful and taking these steps, athletes of all ages can stay in the game and perform at their best while minimizing the risk of sports-related injuries. You can significantly reduce your risk of injuries by seeking professional guidance, such as through the specialists at Norton Sports Health.

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