Preventing and Treating Injuries
Injuries can be prevented. Overuse injuries that are addressed and treated early are less likely to turn into chronic injuries. Accidental injuries or severe, focal injuries can also lead to chronic, recurrent pain patterns. All injuries cause pain and limited motion and function in the injured area. If an injury lasts longer than one week, it can lead to other weaknesses and injuries, turning into a more complex problem. Icing an injured or painful area immediately after it occurs and for the next several days decreases inflammation and can prevent some injuries from causing problems with sports participation. Heat is not as beneficial because it can increase swelling.
Performance TIP: When in doubt, after injury, or when in pain always apply ice.
Many athletes feel that they have one weak side, often from one or several old injuries that were never properly strengthened after recovery. This weak side can continue to be vulnerable to injuries if it is not protected and strengthened with exercise and stretching. Injuries can also cause pain or trouble elsewhere, including joints and muscles not related to the injured area, or on the opposite side as these areas do more work to compensate. Common examples of this include the use of crutches, causing arm and wrist pain along with underarm skin irritation; limping can lead to back, hip, or knee pain, especially on the opposite side as it is taking most of the weight; neck injury leading to back pain, as that tends to become the site of more rotation and movement; and back pain contributing to knee pain as bending is avoided and squats stress knees more.
Injury Prevention Techniques
- Seek medical care for pain or injury early in its development.
- Use proper-fitting and working equipment.
- Strengthen and stretch weak and overworked areas.
- Stop the exercise if there is pain.
- Ice the area for 10 to 15 minutes.
If the injury is a bone fracture, this often takes you out of exercise for weeks to even months. Basic motion can be a challenge after a cast is removed, and muscles need a lot of time to regain their strength. In older women or women with other health problems, the complications of fracture can become more serious, including pneumonia, bleeding, and overall decreased stamina. This leaves a woman vulnerable to other medical problems as well, especially if a hospital stay is required.
The mental effects associated with injury can be very problematic. Decreased activity can lead to depression. Pain may interfere with sleep or enjoyment. Pain medications can be sedating and depressing. Fear of weight gain may cause anxiety. While these negative emotions are usually temporary, they can be difficult to manage.
Injury prevention education, such as jumping and landing training and sliding, falling, and rolling drills reduce risk of injury and should be included in practice, training and rehabilitation. Programs incorporating such training has been shown to reduce knee injury incidence in high school soccer and basketball players. Similarly, training workshops to teach techniques to avoid injury in skiing have been found to reduce knee injuries. Implementing safety regulations and modifying equipment, clothing, and rules in sports has been proven to reduce injuries. Examples include secure goalposts, breakaway bases, helmets, streamlined clothing, and releasable ski bindings. Fingernail extensions as well as jewelry should not be worn during athletic activity, as these can lead to finger, nail, and skin injuries.
Sports conditioning programs should focus on strengthening and stretching the muscles and joints most commonly used to improve performance and prevent injuries. Making coaches, trainers, instructors, and athletes more aware of the risks and severity of certain injuries will help better establish protocols to reduce injury risk. Being aware that minor injuries, fatigue, poor nutrition, and poor fluid intake can increase injury risk will promote healthier behaviors. Making athletes better skilled in the best way to perform with least illness and injury is the greatest goal. Remembering that minor injuries can progress to major problems or lead to other injuries will hopefully encourage athletes to seek care earlier rather than later.
Because few sports condition the entire body, maintaining a conditioning program that incorporates all aspects of musculoskeletal health, including postural strengthening and correction, along with bone strength, flexibility, and balance is highly recommended. This also allows easier transition to other sports later on. Maintaining a well-rounded, fit musculoskeletal system is always beneficial in the long run.