Training for competitive sports can be a physically demanding experience, regardless of age, sport or athletic skill level.
Whether you play for fitness or competition, the last thing any athlete plans for is to be sidelined with an avoidable injury.
Unfortunately, it’s very common for athletes to experience a wide range of sports injuries over the course of their athletic careers. From muscle strains and sprains to fractures, dislocations and more, there are plenty of ways to accidentally take yourself out of the game.
With a focus on proper form, training habits and lifestyle choices, it is essential for athletes to understand how to prevent the risk of injury both in-game and during their training sessions.
With that being said, here are 13 helpful injury prevention tips for athletes of all ages:
1. Always Start with a Warmup
Warming up your muscles can greatly reduce your risk of physical injury while simultaneously improving your overall performance.
For best practice, try to get at least 5-10 minutes of easy cardiovascular exercise before each game or training session in order to break a sweat.
Follow-up with movements that imitate your position-specific game movements to best prepare your body for what lies ahead.
2. Never Skip Your Stretching Routine
Warm muscles also create an increase in elasticity – meaning we can stretch them more easily.
Stretching is vital for exceptional performances, and a good mix of static (held) and dynamic (moving) stretches can do a great job of preparing your body for your next workout or game.
When our body is prepared for the work it needs to do, we run a much lower risk of injury overall.
3. Follow a Sport-Specific Training Plan
Soccer players don’t train the same way hockey players do. The same can be said for every other sport as well.
Learning the right techniques for training for your sport and position will not only help you avoid injury, but help you optimize your body for better in-game performance.
Make sure to work with an experienced trainer to learn the right mix of strength, cardiovascular and flexibility exercises that best suit your sport and body.
4. Use The Correct Equipment
Always make sure to double-check your equipment at the gym and wear shoes that provide support to your feet and back.
The right pair of shoes can also (in some cases) help to correct certain posture concerns that could lead to injury later on.
5. Alternate Muscle Groups
It’s important to work each of our muscle groups to their fullest potential, but we have to allow time for recovery in between.
Alternating which muscle groups you work out not only reduces your risk of injury overall, but it allows for a more balanced regimen that will positively affect your performance. It also allows you to push those muscle groups harder over time by allowing them to rest in between.
Working with an experienced trainer can help you create a training & workout regimen that will span all of your muscle groups and lower your risk of injury.
6. Don’t Overdo It
There’s nothing wrong with starting slow and gradually increasing the intensity of your workouts over time.
The more we overexert our physical capabilities, the higher the risk we run of injuring ourselves.
For best practice, a 5% increase in intensity as your exercises become easier is a safe way to achieve your goals without getting hurt.
Take your time, and always use safe equipment.
7. Make Time for Post-Workout Cooldown
A proper cooldown brings the heart, body and mind back to their resting states and helps us recenter ourselves after an intense workout.
It also aids in muscle recovery and decreases the delayed onset of muscle soreness.
Your cooldowns should last twice as long as your warm-ups, and should involve at least 5 minutes of low-intensity cardio.
8. Make Time for Rest & Recovery
Everyone deserves a day off, and rest is a critical element to a great in-game performance.
Training constantly without time for recovery can greatly increase your risk of injury, so always make sure to put at least one day per week in your calendar for rest.
If you do suffer a sports-related injury, it’s important to make time for sufficient rehabilitation before you resume anything that will put strain on your muscles.
9. Prioritize Hydration
Did you know that it only takes a 2% drop in hydration to negatively affect your performance?
It doesn’t seem like much, but water makes all of the difference in helping to prevent problems like dehydration, heat exhaustion and heatstroke.
Prioritizing hydration means that your body can stay active longer without the risk of exhaustion, so drink up.
10. Follow a Healthy Diet
If injury prevention is a priority for you, the best thing you can do is consume a diet that consists of whole foods with sufficient macronutrients.
Prioritizing healthy fats, protein and carbohydrates means that your body will have more fuel to keep up with you.
Diets that consist of processed foods and sugars contribute to various ailments such as decreased cardiovascular endurance, as well as constant fatigue and muscle weakness.
11. Wear The Correct Equipment and Protective Gear
The right set of protective gear can sometimes make the difference between suffering an injury or preventing it.
Playing with equipment that fits you properly can save just about every part of your body at some point or another, so never play without the right safety gear.
12. Avoid Playing when Exhausted or In Pain
Fatigue and exhaustion can lead to injury faster than anything else, and existing injuries only get worse until they are tended to.
You’re always better to take a rest day if you’re tired or injured rather than playing through the pain or exhaustion. Either one will lead to a lack of clearheadedness, increasing potential risks.
If you’re feeling like something isn’t quite right, it’s always best to sit it out.
13. Work With People You Trust
A team doesn’t just consist of the people you play the game with. Your team includes your coaches, trainers, nutritionists, and all of the people who help you stay at peak performance.
Make sure to work with professionals that complement your approach to your sport, and who help you create training regimens that contribute to better health and performance.
ETS WHITBY: CENTRALIZED TRAINING RESOURCES FOR ATHLETES
At ETS Whitby, we pride ourselves on a full-service approach to athleticism through education, training, nutrition and more.
Using strategic combinations of performance testing, nutritional resources and fitness programming, our goal is to build the complete athlete from one centralized location.
No matter your sport, age or athletic skill level, our ETS experts are committed to developing stronger, more confident athletes.
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Interested in learning more about our athlete training programs?
Feel free to contact Kelly Gallant at email@example.com to book a complimentary athletic consultation.