How to Prevent Common Sports Injuries

Whether you are a professional or casual athlete, injuries can happen unexpectedly when participating in sports and exercise. While accidents happen, there are measures that can be taken to prevent or reduce the possibility of being injured while enjoying your favorite sports and activities. In the event you do experience an injury, the sports medicine team at Banner Health is here to help.  

What Is a Sports Injury?

A sports injury is any common injury suffered while participating in sports, exercise or work. Most sports injuries are due to either trauma or overuse of muscles, ligaments, tendons or bones. Common injuries include:

  • Sprains
  • Strains
  • Bone fractures
  • Ligament damage
  • Dislocations
  • Concussions

How Can Sports Injuries Be Prevented?

Most sports injuries are caused by improper or poor training techniques, using improper sports equipment or improper stretching and warm up practices. Luckily, measures can be taken to help prevent injuries.

Warming Up and Cooling Down  

A common cause of injury is jumping right into high impact or rigorous exercise without warming the body up first. Warming up usually involves stretching and light exercise to gradually raise your heart rate and increase muscle and joint usage. Light cardio exercises with very small increases in impact or weight load has been shown to be the safest method. 

Using Proper Technique

Learning to use the correct and safest maneuvers for whichever sport or activity you are participating in is crucial for the avoidance of injuries. Different sports and exercises use very specific stances or postures, so learning them and using them can prevent many different types of injuries. This is especially true for weight training where improper technique is a common cause for injury.

Using Protective Equipment

Many team sports have made the use of protective gear mandatory, which is a good start, but further protective measures should be taken as well. In addition to always wearing a helmet for contact or action sports, other protective gear should be used. This can include knee and elbow pads, spine protection, protective eyewear, wrestlers ear protection, mouth guards and protective clothing and footwear. 

Using Proper and Well-Fitting Sports Equipment

Wearing and using equipment that is well-fitting and appropriate for a specific sport is another way to avoid an unnecessary injury. Borrowing equipment from a friend and family member that doesn’t quite fit is a common cause for injury. Using the wrong size or weight of equipment can also lead to injury—for example riding a bike that is too big or lifting weight above your strength level. Coaches can work with parents to advise proper use of equipment used for youth sports. 

Getting Plenty of Rest and Sleep

Participating in sports and exercise can be fun and surprisingly addictive. At times it is easy to get over-excited and want to exercise or play a sport before the body has had time to rest and recuperate. For strenuous exercise, muscles and joints may need 24 to 48 hours to fully recover. Properly resting and using cold or warm compression on sore areas can be an extremely effective way to prevent injury.

For sports that use repetitive motion, like baseball or tennis, the body is under increased strain. This can lead to problems with joints and tendons, so a conservative rest practice is very important. Alternating the exercise of different muscle groups or only exercising every other day is a good method.

Getting enough sleep at night is important to any healthy lifestyle but is of heightened importance for people who are very active. Fatigue is a very common cause of injury and sleep deprivation will exacerbate muscle fatigue. It is a major factor in chronic pain. It can also impair performance so getting enough rest will not only lower risk for injury but also boost performance. 

The Sports Medicine team at Banner Health treats sports injuries with compassion and commitment. We can help you to develop a healthy lifestyle with best practices for avoiding injury. If you are injured, we offer comprehensive care to get you back at the top of your game as quickly and as safely as possible.