Sporting injuries can strike those in peak condition and those training for their local 5km fun run. The most common sports injuries affect ligaments and tendons. Most commonly sprains, which occur when the ligaments are stretched beyond their capacity. This overstretching can also result in tears. These tears are injuries to the muscle fibers or tendons which people refer to as “pulled muscles”.
Reducing your risk of injury can be achieved through the simple implementation of warmup, stretching and maintaining mobility.
Here are 5 very common sporting injuries and some ways which we can try to avoid them:
- Ankle sprain
Ankle sprains occur when the ligaments, typically on the outside of the ankle become strained or tear. Mild sprains can have symptoms such as swelling and discomfort whereas major sprains can see large amounts of swelling and visible bruising.
Strengthening the muscles which surround and support the ankle through various exercises is a great place to start in reducing the risk of sprains. Tracing the letters of your name with pointed toes will assist in building strength in the ankle. Calf raises are also a great exercise to increase ankle stability.
- Pulled groin
A strained groin is the manifestation of a tear in one of the adductor muscles in the inner thigh. Groin strains as you could imagine can be quite uncomfortable and in some cases physically debilitating.
Exercises which strengthen the hip abductors and improve hip mobility and stability should be implemented into your routine to reduce risk of groin strain.
- Hamstring strain
Hamstring strains are commonly seen in activities that require explosive bursts such as sprinting or jumping. If you have a history of hamstring strain you are at increased risk of a repeated injury and should exert caution, taking extra care with warmups and stretching. Another simple tip to reduce hamstring injuries is to reduce the time spent sitting each day.
- Shin splints
Shin splints are most commonly occurring injuries in runners. While the specific cause of shin splints is ever debated, it is noted to be due to factors in a running routine. New runners experience them due to trying too much too soon and experienced runners can experience them due to an abrupt shift in terrain, distance or speed.
Like many other injuries prevention starts with stretching. Stretching the calves will reduce the pull at the front of the leg due to tight calf muscles. Another way to avoid such injury comes down to your shoes. Ensure that your running shoes are in good shape and replaced when they start to show wear and tear.
- ACL tear
The Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) is the ligament responsible for controlling the movements of the knee. An ACL tear can be extremely painful and debilitating, in many cases requiring surgery to repair. Rapid directional change is generally the cause of ACL injuries through running, jumping and the like.
The best way to reduce risk of ACL injury is to strengthen the muscles surrounding the knee. Squats, walking lunges, step ups etc. are great exercises to implement into a program as well as adding the element of instability through bosu balls. The hamstrings, quads, ITB and calves all influence the ACL so the best way to minimize injury is by strengthening these muscles and stretching regularly.
In the case of injury prevention there’s no secret, the bottom line is that in order to stay active we need to warm up sufficiently, stretch regularly and focus on building strength and stability within the muscles we use the most. If you need further guidance about what exercises to implement into a program or you are wanting work your way back from injury safely our Physiotherapists and Accredited Exercise Physiologists are the best people to see!