Wellness Wednesday: Preventing Sports Injuries 101

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Loudoun County, Va. — Exercise and fitness are important for all ages, and create dramatic changes in your overall health and well being. However, it is important for all levels of athletes and non-athletes to engage in proper warm-ups, stretching, and conditioning, in order to prevent injury. Too often, sports-related injuries occur which could have been easily prevented had the athletes thoroughly prepared their bodies for practices and games.

So what is an appropriate warm-up?

The warm-up, which typically lasts between 10-15 minutes, feeds the body. Whether it’s a run, a jog, a swim, or a brisk walk, the change in activity does several things:

  • It increases the blood supply to your muscles
  • It increases your heart rate
  • It begins to produce more lubrication for the smooth joint motion

Now that the body is warm, the next step is to thoroughly stretch

Following a warm-up, the increased temperature allows athletes to elongate their muscles without risking injury. There are two types of stretches: static and dynamic.

Static stretching

Static stretching is the most common form of stretching, because it can be performed at any fitness level. A static stretch is generally held for 20-30 seconds, in a slightly uncomfortable position, to encourage additional lengthening of the muscle and deeper movements.

Dynamic stretching

Dynamic stretching is used to prepare the body for competition-specific functioning. This kind of stretching is the best way to prepare the joints for movement and activation.

When stretching isn’t done properly, it limits the flexibility and mobility of not one, but many areas of the body. For example, if an athlete has tight hamstrings, they’re also going to be limited in their hip and knee flexibility and strengthening mechanics. They’ll also be at risk for back and knee problems. Why? Because the hamstrings move the hip joint and also cross over the back of the knee joint. This is why a tight and weak hamstring can often lead to knee pain.

The importance of conditioning

Summertime is often the cue to relax, lay by the pool, go on vacation and take some time off. While that may be true to an extent, it’s important, particularly for athletes, to make sure you are keeping up with both in-season and off-season conditioning routines so you aren’t losing the progress you’ve made. Summer is the perfect time to get in shape! it’s important to maintain a basic level of fitness in order to minimize the chances of injury when you return to your sport.

A complete conditioning should consist of the following components:

Flexibility

The goal of flexibility is to loosen the tissues around the joints in order to eliminate improper, insufficient movements. Increasing flexibility gives you an increased ability to perform multiple movement skills.

Strength

With increased flexibility comes the challenge of losing strength. Shoulders are the perfect example. Let’s talk about swimmers. When it comes to these athletes, very frequently, they focus on increasing their shoulder mobility and flexibility to improve their technique. Also very frequently however, they tend to neglect their scapular strength. Strength itself means “the quality of being physically or mentally strong.” Neglecting strength training can limit your ability to control your movements and can lead to worse results.

Endurance

Endurance is another key component of a conditioning program. In order to participate in any event, the athlete must possess the cardiovascular and muscular endurance to perform their sport. Whether it’s walking, biking, rope pulling, swimming, or running, an athlete needs to assess their current level of endurance and build on that gradually. This prevents burnout and the risk for injuries.

Skill

The final component of a complete conditioning program is skill. Once the athlete has the proper level of flexibility, solid strength in all movement patterns, and endurance to last a full practice, it’s vital to now incorporate sports-specific skills into the conditioning program. In order to do these sport-specific skills properly and without the risk for injury, flexibility, strength, and endurance have to be at optimum levels.

NOTE FROM OUR SPONSOR: If you are a parent, a coach, or an athlete and are concerned about injuries or want more information on specific drills to prevent injuries, call Loudoun Sports Therapy TODAY at 703-450-4300. Our clinicians can speak with you about what those injuries are, when they cause problems and help you come up with a plan to address them.

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Loudoun Sports Therapy Center is a premier physical therapy clinic. We offer outpatient orthopedic and sports physical therapy as well as specialty programs.

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