Jennifer Ellison-Brown: Major causes and prevention of sports-related injuries
Sport is a dynamic activity. When we play, we push our bodies to the limit, and this can lead to injury. Sometimes, of course, even when all precautions and great care have been taken, parts of the body can be injured either through sudden impact, movement or overuse.
If such injuries keep occurring, more lasting damage can occur. Injuries can also occur because of environmental factors such as equipment, playing surfaces and weather conditions.
Injuries can be classed as:
- Accidental injuries (due to violence or the environment)
- Overuse injuries
- Chronic Injuries
- Accidental injuries
Accidental injuries are those that happen when they are least expected and can be caused by internal and external forces.
Internal force is extra strain on the body parts when performance is at our highest level. A sudden stretch or twist can strain or tear muscles, tendons or ligament. Example: Sprinters can tear a hamstring in a race, footballers get groin strain through stretching or knee ligament damage from twisting.
External forces come from outside and has to do with direct contact or violence from another player. Another external force is the environment.
Injuries caused by violence are due to direct contact between players or equipment. Many sports have violent contact between opponents which may result in fractures, dislocations, sprains and bruises. They may also be caused by being hit by equipment such as a bat, ball, sticks or rackets. Breaking the rules can lead to violent injury.
The environment can lead to injury due to facilities. For example, uneven playing surfaces can cause a player to trip and land heavily on the playing surface, or a player may collide with the goalpost. The weather conditions may cause dehydration, heat exhaustion and then heat stroke due to extreme heat and hypothermia due to extreme cold conditions.
These are caused by using a part of the body repeatedly over a long period of time. These injuries produce pain and inflammation. Common overuse injuries include 'tennis or golf elbows', 'Shin splints', 'cricketer's shoulder', 'blisters and calluses caused by gripping equipment tightly during activity. Some overuse injuries are caused by incorrect technique.
All injuries must be treated at once. If they are placed under stress before they are healed, they will get worse. If this continues, a chronic injury will develop and will be difficult to heal. Chronic injury can lead to permanent damage. Lack of fitness and lack of knowledge of the rules of the sport can also cause injuries.
PREVENTING SPORT INJURIES
Sometimes there is not much that can be done to prevent an injury from happening. However, it helps if training is progressive and safe, with proper rest periods, proper conditioning of the body and the right mental attitude. Those factors are important in reducing the risk.
CORRECT WARM-UP AND
Impatience at times causes players to ignore the need for a good warm-up before the start of an activity and a gentle cool-down at the end. A warm-up prepares the mind and body for the activity and helps reduce the risk of injury. It should involve a gradual increase in the heart rate and breathing rate.
Stretching exercises are also important. A cool-down reverses the warm-up process and brings the mind and body back to a relaxed state. It helps to begin repaying of oxygen debt by maintaining an increased blood flow to the muscles to deliver oxygen to the tissue and remove lactic acid.
CORRECT EQUIPMENT AND
The use of correct equipment for the activity and wearing the correct clothing can avoid injury. Protection for ankle, knees, hips and back by wearing the correct footwear and clothing must be comfortable for the environment. Equipment should be approved and safe. Activities should always be properly supervised with first aid equipment and material available. Safe practice and safety rules must be adhered to. The playing surface should always be safe and in appropriate condition.
Always be properly prepared for the activity. The right skills, strategies, frame of mind and body condition to perform well must be developed. Not knowing what to do cause mistakes and injuries.
ENOUGH REST AND RECOVERY
Never come back too soon after an injury before you know you are ready. Do not allow yourself to be pressured into performing before you are properly recovered. This will prevent further damage to the injured body part.