Playing a sport recreationally or competitively is the perfect combination of fun and fitness for any age group, and most sports can be played throughout the year. So that everyone can enjoy their favourite sports without letting an injury get in the way, we’ve put together the 5 Most Common Sports Injuries and How To Prevent Them.
There are sports that see more concussions than others (football, hockey, rugby, soccer and basketball) but understanding how to avoid and recover properly from one is key to ensuring they don’t create long-lasting issues.
- Wear the right equipment, including helmets for sports that require it. Make sure you have one that fits properly and is designed for the sport you’re playing, and that it’s certified by the appropriate governing body.
- Create a safe sports culture where all players know and understand the rules around safe play. Enforce the rules of the sport to ensure that athletes don’t take unsafe actions towards another player, e.g. strikes to the head, illegal contact, or trying to cause injury.
- Know the signs of concussions as they are numerous and vary from player to player. The most common signs include headaches, dizziness, neck pain, nausea or vomiting, among many others. Even if you’re unsure, always see a medical professional following a head injury to get the proper testing and diagnosis.
For more information, check out our 5 Resources For Concussion Education.
Pulled or Strained Muscles
Muscle injuries can be the result of improper movement or repetitive motion that has put a significant strain on a muscle or group of muscles. Most of these types of injuries aren’t too serious and will heal over time with rest and proper care, but continuing to train or play with an injured muscle has the potential for long-term issues. The best way to avoid a pulled or strained muscle is to:
- Warm up with dynamic or active stretching before starting training or a game. Dynamic stretching boosts blood flow, activates the central nervous system, and enhances strength, power, and range of motion. Focus your dynamic stretches on actions similar to the sport you’ll be playing, e.g. if you’re running, perform skips, high-knees, and lunges.
- Cool down with a gentle walk and static stretching once you’re finished. Static stretching relaxes muscles while reducing blood flow and decreasing central nervous system activity to release tension in the muscles. Focus on each stretch for at least 30-seconds and stop if you feel discomfort or pain.
Both types of stretching are key to protecting your muscles while you exercise, helping them strengthen over time, and recover afterwards. For more information, check out Static Stretching vs. Dynamic Stretching: Which Should You Do?
This is one of the most common injuries in sports like soccer, given the volume of running required. Shin splints are a type of repetitive strain injury caused by an athlete quickly intensifying, changing, or starting a new training routine. These can lead to more serious issues, so to avoid them or to help you recover from them safely and swiftly:
- Gradually increase running activities to allow your body to adjust – if you’re already a runner and looking to increase distance, increase total weekly mileage by 10% each week; if you’re starting a running program, use a run/walk method to get your body used to running (start with a 1-minute walk followed by a 1-minute run) and increase your running intervals gradually over several weeks.
- Invest in a good pair of shoes and/or arch supports and remember to replace them regularly. Most high-quality running shoes should be replaced between 300 and 500 miles—about four to six months for someone who runs 20 miles per week.
Dislocations & Sprains
A dislocation happens when the bones of a joint are knocked out of place and commonly occur in fingers, shoulders, knees, elbows, hips, and jaws. A sprain happens when a ligament is stretched or torn, and while they can occur in the upper or lower part of the body, they most commonly occur in the ankle, knee, and wrist. While either of these injuries can happen any time and without warning, both can be prevented by:
- Being cautious of where you’re running, walking, or playing
- Wearing the right equipment for the sport you’re playing, including supportive items to keep joints, bones, and muscles in the right place while active
- Staying physically active to keep muscles and tendons strong in general
- Warming up before physical activity
- Avoiding activity when tired or experiencing pain
Most sports involve lower body activities which can lead to an increased risk of injury to the muscles, joints, and bones in that area. As a result, there are several common injuries to the knee that can impact an athlete, including Patellofemoral Syndrome (the kneecap isn’t travelling in its proper place), Runner’s Knee (a repetitive strain injury caused by regular running or walking), Jumpers’ Knee/Patellar Tendinitis (a repetitive strain injury caused by regular jumping or playing on a hard surface), and ACL Strain/Tear (a strain or damage to the ligament that stabilizes your knee). Heres how to prevent general strains in this area:
- Rest if you start to feel pain in, around, or behind your knee – swap from running to gently walking, take a break from your sports training until you have recovered, or focus on training other parts of your body until your knee is better.
- Participate in cross-training for a variety of movements so your body grows strong in multiple areas and to avoid overuse injuries in your knees (and other areas!).
- Wear the right shoes and/or insoles or arch supports to give your knees and frame a solid, secure foundation to work from.
- If possible, alternate your workouts to be on softer surfaces from time-to-time. Hard surfaces like tennis and basketball courts, concrete sidewalks, or indoor arenas can put a strain on your knees – consider running or walking on a trail or playing on a grass-covered surface on occasion.
While we can do our part to prevent injuries by being careful, staying fit and healthy, and wearing the right equipment, sometimes accidents happen. In that case, stop the activity you’re doing and, provided the injury doesn’t require medical attention, follow the R.I.C.E. treatment plan to get you back on your feet safely:
- Rest: Sometimes an injury only takes a day or two’s rest; others may need longer. Pay attention to your body and use support items like crutches if need be.
- Ice: Ice helps with pain and swelling – apply it to the area for 15-20 minutes every 4 hours. Don’t keep ice on an injury indefinitely and use crushed ice or even a bag of peas to allow you to fit the pack to the injured area.
- Compression: Pressure on the injury helps reduce swelling and provides additional support while you heal. You can find elastic medical-grade bandages over the counter in many stores. Keep it tight for support but not so tight that it cuts off circulation!
- Elevation: Keeping the injured area lifted as much as possible can help you rest properly and helps reduce swelling. The key is to elevate higher than your heart.
For additional information on common injuries, prevention and recovery, here are a few more resources for you:
- 14 Most Common Fitness Injuries
- Everything You Need to Know About Sports Injuries and Rehab
- 5 Winter Sports and How To Enjoy Them Safely
- How ePACT Supports Safety for Youth Sports
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