Avoiding Sporting Injuries – A Guide for Adults and Older Athletes

By Craig Steele (Sports Physiotherapist)

With winter well and truly upon us, we tend to start seeing the injuries flow into the clinic from various sports such as soccer, rugby, touch football and tennis. With Australians being encouraged to take up more activity and organised sport, it is timely to take a look at the causes of sports injuries and what we can do to minimise the risks of being injured in the first case.

The broad term of “sports injuries” refers to injury sustained whilst undertaking not only organised sport, but also physical activity/exercise. They can occur for a number of reasons including accidents, poor training surfaces, poor equipment, poor technique, lack of conditioning or inadequate warm up or stretching.

If starting a new sport, it is important to seek coaching to ensure that your technique is correct, you are using the correct equipment for your shape and size and you are exercising on the correct surfaces. Sports injuries can affect any part of your body, but typically relate to the musculoskeletal system (muscles, bones and joints). Some of the most common injuries are sprains, strains and fractures.

A sprain refers to stretching or tearing of the ligaments – the thick band that joins one bone to another. Sprains can range from Grade 1 (minimal stretch) to Grade 3 (complete tear of the ligament) and usually result from trauma such as a fall or knock from fellow competitors. It is important to know the Grade of sprain, as this dictates the course of rehabilitation. Symptoms include pain, swelling, laxity or inability to weight bear through the joint.

A strain is a pull or tear of the muscle or it’s tendon (attaches the muscle to the bone). It usually results from overstretching or overcontracting the muscle. Symptoms may include pain, muscle spasm and weakness.

How to Treat Sports Injuries:

If you experience a sporting injury, you should follow these principles until you can seek further assessment from a physiotherapist or suitably qualified health professional:
1. Rest – it is important to immobilise the area injured if the pain is severe, or reduce your activity as your pain dictates, especially in the first 24 hours.
2. Ice – apply ice packs to the injured area to reduce inflammation and swelling. Always put ice pack in a damp tea-towel to reduce the risk of ice burns and apply for no longer than 20min at a time. This can be applied regularly in the first 24-48 hours.
3. Compression – is used to support the area and reduce swelling. Bandages or tubular bandages such as “tubigrip” may be used
4. Elevation – elevating the injured area (especially for lower limb injuries) helps to reduce swelling in the area.

Tips for Preventing Injury

1. No weekend warriors! – don’t be inactive through the week, then go and play lots of physical sports or overdo the exercise. Try to spread your activity throughout the week.
2. Increase your exercise level gradually, especially when starting back at sport or exercise
3. Ensure you have a good technique – coaching may be necessary
4. Accept your bodies limits and modify your activities as needed
5. Use the correct safety gear
6. Maintain good overall fitness. It is important to combine cardiovascular activity with weight training and stretching exercises.
7. Seek treatment early on if experiencing pain or discomfort.

Remember, it is always easier to treat conditions early before they become chronic. Physiotherapists are trained to accurately assess sports injuries and implement an appropriate treatment program. Sports

Physiotherapists have undergone extra tertiary level training to refine their skills in assessing the biomechanics of sport, assessment of injuries and the implementation of thorough and sports related treatment programs.

Craig Steele has a Masters Degree in Sports Physiotherapy and owns Hinteractive Physio. He can be contacted on 5442 5556.

Comments are closed.