The Importance of Injury-free Sports Practice – Sports Medicine Weekly | Dr. Brian J. Cole
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Published on: 05-Oct-2021

Practicing a sport provides numerous benefits to the players, coaches and the team in general. The time allotted to training is an opportunity for the players to develop and perfect vital sport skills and strategies. For the coach, regular practice helps develop confidence enabling the team to work towards its goals. 

A crucial aspect of sports practice is understanding the importance of injury-free training sessions. Statistics show that over 3.5 million players aged 14 years and below are injured when playing sports annually. Among college athletes, a Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report showed an average of 210,000 injuries annually between 2009-14 among the athletes participating in NCAA championship sports. 

A crucial finding by the National Safe Kids Campaign is that over 62% of sports-related injuries happen during practice. 

Of course, contact sports, such as football and basketball, put athletes at a much higher risk of injuries than non-contact sports like swimming. However, sports-related injuries don’t always come from acute traumatic injuries like fractures, concussions and cuts. It also results from mental and physical overexertion leading to overuse or misuse of particular body parts. Technically, this means that all types of sports have a significant risk of injuries.  

Why Injury-Free Training in Sports is Necessary 

The importance of injury-free sports practice is evident in the following ways: 

  1. Achieving individual and team goals

Whether it’s a fracture or a sprain, an injury that sidelines a player is an obstacle to achieving the goals they have set at the individual and team level. Even after recovering fully, the process of returning to the sport can be quite lengthy and challenging.

While they may have recovered fully in medical terms, the athletes returning to play require strength and conditioning programs to restore their power, agility, speed and endurance to pre-injury competitive levels. The period spent in rehabilitation is precious time that would otherwise be used to advance their skills. 

  1. Staying healthy and safe 

Sports injuries are often perceived as the physical or mechanical trauma to a part of the body resulting from a blow, crush or cut etc. However, recent studies now show that injuries also have a significant psychological impact on athletes.

Although research on the mental effects of sports-related injuries is still in its infancy, results from recent studies show that psychological responses to injuries can trigger issues like anxiety, depression and substance abuse. 

  1. Reducing treatment and recovery costs 

Minor injuries, such as sprains and pulled muscles, can be managed at home using the PRICE (Protection, Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation) approach. However, severe cases like a knee injury and a damaged shoulder often call for specialized care. 

Presently, there are a lot of grey areas regarding who should bear the unfortunate burden of sports injuries. When this happens, athletes face challenges, including negotiating insurance coverage to secure long-term treatment. 

How to Avoid Injuries During Sports Practice- Tips 

It’s almost impossible to separate injuries and sports owing to the unpredictable nature of physical activities. However, with proper precautions, the risk of sports injuries can be reduced significantly. Some general tips for avoiding injuries when practicing for sports include:

  1. Choose exercise drills wisely 

Every sport has low-intensity and high-intensity exercises depending on the condition of the players. Beginners and players resuming play after an injury should consult their coach or trainer on the best exercises to start with. For basketball players and those seeking to get into the game, these basketball shooting drills are a form of safe practice.

Note that choosing the right exercises is not enough. Understanding the rules of the drills and playing by them is also crucial to reducing injuries. 

  1. Emphasize warm-up 

Whether the activity is soccer, cycling, skiing or basketball, a proper warm-up is crucial to the success of a practice session. A good warm-up is necessary for improving athletes’ sports performance. It does so by increasing oxygen efficiency, flexibility and body and muscle temperature. Importantly, proper warm-up loosens joints and improves blood flow to the muscles minimizing the risk of muscle tear, rip or twist when exercising. 

  1. Wear safety gear 

Another way of reducing sports-related injuries is by wearing the right gear. Protective equipment, such as shoes, knee and elbow pads, helmets and gloves can reduce the risk of injuries by a significant margin. Coaches, trainers and parents should emphasize the use of proper safety gear for every type of sport. 

  1. Avoid playing through the pain 

At the professional level, doctors and most coaches no longer recommend playing through the pain. This behavior is commonly known as “playing hurt.” It is caused by several factors, including the warrior mentality, pressure from teammates, shame from appearing weak and fear of letting the team down. 

It’s a well-known fact that participating in sports activities and training sessions despite being hurt can worsen the damage sidelining the player longer. If the coach, trainer, or parent notices a suspicious change in the player’s technique, like a limp or a weak throw, they should immediately pull them out for a check-up. Players also need to be honest when they are hurt to avoid worsening minor injuries. 

On this note, players should consider seeing a doctor for their sports-related injuries if; 

  • There’s tingling and numbness in the arms and legs. 
  • The pain does not subside even after several days of resting. 
  • Pain goes away but comes back. 
  • They have painful pops.  
  • There’s significant or new swelling around the joint.
  1. Stay hydrated

Hydration is integral to ensuring that the body is functioning at its best level. Whether you’re an elite or amateur, dehydration during competitive sports activities or exercises makes you feel fatigued more than usual, affecting your performance. Athletes often forget that intense activities without proper hydration can cause severe issues like muscle fatigue and excessive heating, leading to overheating, dizziness and fainting. 

There are no strict rules for proper hydration when exercising. The amount of water to drink to stay adequately hydrated depends on factors, such as an individual’s health, climatic conditions and exercise intensity. Everybody is different. All in all here is a simple hydration strategy that should work for most people.

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