Its early in the season, and you head out for your first few games of golf. You notice that your elbow is sore, when you connect with the ball. You put the soreness down to deconditioning over the winter, and ignore it as it will get better with time.
But it doesn’t!
It just keeps worsening, and then the next thing you know, you can’t grip your club, let alone take a swing without excruciating pain.
There goes the season!
What if you had paid attention in those first few weeks to the early warning signs of pain, received some medical attention and took care of the issue. Your season would look a whole lot different. The key is early intervention!
Here are a few sports injury preventative tips:
Respect Past Injuries
Unfortunately, injuries do occur. One of biggest risk factors for sustaining an injury is having had a previous injury that was not completely rehabilitated. The pain may have disappeared, but there is a strong chance that the strength, range of motion and muscle length were compromised and subtle functional deficits still exist. This can result in a reoccurrence of the original injury or move up and down the chain, as the biomechanics are altered and other body parts are put under strain.
It is therefore very important that you complete your rehabilitation through to the end. Ensure you have regained all that you have lost. A physiotherapist can help assess if you are in fact ready to return to play.
Exercises designed for your particular sport, can help avoid those early season injuries and keep you strong and flexible throughout your whole season. A physiotherapist or sports trainer can help tailor an individualized program appropriate to the demands of your sport and your bodies requirements. If you are a golfer, and have had back issues in the past, you need a program that is geared towards, lumbar flexibility and core strength. The time to work on these areas is during your off season,but in many cases, continuing a light program during the entire season is advisable. You will have more energy and avoid the risk of overuse injuries once the season is well under way.
Let your Body Adapt
If you are starting out the beginning of your season, and have not been playing throughout the year, aim at gradually easing into the sport. Your body needs time to adapt.
Certain structures, such as bones, cartilage and tendon, need time to adapt to the physical workload. This means only increasing one variable (duration, intensity, frequency) by no more that 10% each week. Your body needs recovery time, so avoid heavy training on consecutive days. Let your soft tissues rest and recover from the previous day’s workout. You will in fact increase your performance by adopting these basic principles.
Your equipment can be a source of injury. If your bike is not the right size, your golf clubs have lost their grips, or your running shoes are worn out; these can all be causes for unwanted injuries. We are all built differently so it is very important that your equipment is designed for your body type. Particularly, if you are playing a sport on a regular basis, as this is how overuse injuries can occur. If a cyclist’s seat height is too high and they have to reach for the toe pedal or point their toes down for every pedal stroke, then the calf and Achilles tendon is at risk of being over worked and a tendonitis can occur, which takes longer to rehabilitate, then adjusting the seat height accordingly.
This is one of most important tips! At the first sign of pain, which is your bodies way of telling you there is an issue, you need to seek medical attention. Your family physician may in fact be your first point of contact.
They can often rule out any major issues and order the appropriate tests if necessary, like x-ray, MRI’s or blood work. Once these are cleared then it is important to find a medical professional you trust that can assess the problem at hand and guide you through the process. An informed patient, is much more able to treat their issue accordingly, because they know what the root cause of the pain is, what to avoid and how to be proactive in the recovery.
If you have no idea why you are in pain, then it is almost impossible to take care of the problem. It is your body, and you are ultimately responsible for it, so be an informed person, take charge and listen to your trusted health professional. Your injury may require some form of treatment, in order for you to recover faster.
Let’s take an ankle sprain.
You have twisted your ankle while playing soccer and need immediate attention. You will be advised to reduce the swelling by icing, compression and active range of motion. If there is stiffness involved, then the physiotherapist may need to do manual mobilizations on your ankle to increase its range of motion. Followed by strengthening exercises, and balance work.
You may require a brace to return to play, so you do not reinjure it in the first few weeks while your rehabilitating it. Gradually your ankle gets stronger, has full motion and proprioception is improving with ongoing training.
It is time to return to the game, while wearing the brace for prevention. With ongoing exercises, hopefully this injury will be fully rehabilitated and no longer cause any ongoing issues.
Remember these injury prevention tips and your sports season will hopefully be injury free. And if you do sustain an injury, remember to seek early intervention and be proactive, so you can return to play faster and safely.
About Liz Grant BSc PT
Liz has been a practicing physiotherapist in the Belleville area for the past 25 years. She is part owner of Quinte Orthopaedics with Austin Gaber. They and their diversified team of health professionals, help numerous high level athletes and weekend warriors return to play, with detailed assessment skills, treatment modalities and education. Liz’s passion for sport herself has allowed her to understand and rehabilitate a large variety of injuries. She and her team believe in prevention first, and early intervention second.