Let’s Talk Prevention.
Prevention of injuries was one of my areas of expertise during my years as an athletic trainer. Being injured is every athlete’s worst nightmare. Not only is there physical pain but also mental anguish as they struggle with recovery and the thought of not being able to play. Fortunately, there are steps you can proactively take to help prevent injuries to the best of your ability:
- Get Plenty of Sleep. Getting the recommended amount of sleep will not just help with your athletic performance, it can also help with injury prevention. When you are sleep deprived, you are more apt to make poor decisions which can affect your safety. For example, you may choose to skip a warm-up because you are tired but the warm-up gets your muscles ready for the demand you are about to place on it.
- Increase Flexibility. When you stretch, you elongate your muscles allowing them to give you more range-of-motion. This improved motion protects you when unexpected hits come your way.
- Increase Strength. Having strength is extremely important to prevent injuries. However, the problem I saw a lot was imbalanced muscles which can cause injuries. When building strength, it is important to do both sides of the body. If you want to work the front (chest, biceps, quadriceps), you must also include the back with just as much intensity (upper back, triceps, hamstring). By keeping your body balanced, you are protecting it to the best of your ability.
- Do Balance Exercises. This step is usually left out of training programs but it is probably your best bet for prevention because they work your stability muscles. These muscles keep you stable when unexpected things happen. Balance exercises are extremely important with every rehabilitation of injuries as well. You don’t need fancy equipment. You can begin by lifting one leg and closing your eyes for 30 seconds – 1 minute. You can also walk a “balance beam” aka 2x4 forward and backward to incorporate movement, closing your eyes when it gets easy.
- Do not play through the pain. No pain, no gain no longer applies. You can actually be doing further damage if you continue to play through the pain in most circumstances. Minor things such as bruises, even if they hurt, can still be played through. If in doubt, sit it out.
- Increase Activity Slowly. When beginning an exercise routine, it is easy to overdo it from the start. Remember to take it slow to reduce soreness and pain. Likewise, for those involved in sports, it is very important to keep fitness level high year-round so you do not start from scratch at the beginning of your season. Otherwise, you run the risk of injury from an abundance of exercise in a short amount of time. How do you do that? Try another sport.
- Do NOT specialize in one sport. When you specialize in only one sport, you do the same movements over and over year-round. This repetition causes overuse injuries. It can also cause muscle imbalances which leads to more injuries. With that being said, I do caution on too many sports where your body does not get a rest. Rest is extremely important for athletes to allow your body to recuperate and heal from all of the demands placed on it.
- Use Essential Oils. Essential oils can help the body to reduce the injury risk. You can use lavender to help the body sleep. Peppermint and wild orange are great to remain alert. Frankincense allows you to remain balanced, calm and focused. Finally, my favorite, the soothing blend, is great for soothing muscles from exercise.
Even while taking all of these precautions, injuries may still occur. But by taking part in all of the tips above, you will reduce your risk significantly. Make every effort to apply these 8 tips to your athletic career and you will reap the benefits both physically and emotionally.
Wishing you all a healthy athletic season!