As Melbourne and the rest of Victoria slowly return back to some form of normality (albeit ‘COVID normal’ for now) we will see the return of community sport. If you’re 18 or under you may be already be enjoying such ‘pre-COVID-19’ activities! Unfortunately, previously with the commencement of sport/athletes returning to training and games after time-off (e.g. due to injury or holidays) we often see injuries occur. COVID-19 has forced many of us, especially Victorians, to have some time-off from the sports we love. Hence, why we believe that the return of community sport may lead to a spike in injuries.
Why could this occur? How can you avoid this happening to you? What things should you keep in mind while training? The following seven points will assist you to ‘stay on the park’ and keep you enjoying your chosen sport.
Sitting on the couch until Round 1 next year isn’t going to cut it. Your body will become deconditioned to the demands of your sport and injury risk will thus be high. Not to mention your fitness levels and subsequently performance will suffer too. In order for your body to be appropriately conditioned for sport, your body must be gradually exposed to the physical demands required. One study observed that elite rugby players are less likely to be injured in season if they complete a larger percentage of pre-season training. If your club hasn’t began pre-season yet than make sure to do some training in your own time, maybe even bring a mate or two along. In fact, physical preparation prior to the start of pre-season itself will decrease the risk of injury during this time.
Inadequate load management is a massive contributing factor to injuries both acute and chronic in nature. For example, take a soccer player that has sat on the couch since the beginning of the first lockdown. They choose to start training the week leading up to round 1 next year. His team trains twice a week for an hour and plays for two hours on the weekend. This player’s body will now have to manage 4 hours per week of sprinting, kicking and change of direction all with no preparation whatsoever. That’s a massive spike in load placed on the body! Fluctuations such as these increase the likelihood of injury.
Generally speaking, your training load should not increase by more than 10% week to week. For example, if you are currently running 30km a week you would only want to increase by no more than 3km the next week. If you’re starting from scratch (i.e. no training whatsoever) or seeking more in-depth advice than we recommend that you make an appointment at Maxvale Physiotherapy and we can design a program tailored specifically to you.
So now that you how much to increase your load we need to understand that not all load is the same. Let’s compare running non-stop in straight line for a period of time compared to the challenges required to play basketball. Running is a terrific way to build cardiovascular fitness however, the load placed on your muscles, tendons, bones, ligaments, etc is vastly different to loads occurred during the jumping and change of direction required for basketball! So, if you are a basketballer who hasn’t engaged in these sorts of activities, you need to slowly introduce them to your training regime before going straight into full training and games.
Warming up just prior to training or participating in sport is one of the easiest and best ways to decrease the chance of injury. If your engaging in traditional team sports (e.g ‘Aussie rules’ football, basketball, soccer) or individual sports (e.g. tennis, athletics,) than your warm up should involve movements such as dynamic stretching, muscle activation exercises and a gradual build up in running intensity/agility drills. Neuromuscular warm up protocols have been demonstrated to reduce the risk of lower limb injuries across a range of sports.
Strength training comes in different forms and is a terrific way to prepare the body for the demands of sport. Whether it’s in the gym or at home, strength training (done well) can vastly reduce the risk of injury. However, if you have little experience and wish to undertake a gym or exercise program it is best to get some advice from a health professional. Even if you are usually a regular gym goer it is sometimes best to review your program with a health professional to make sure you are getting the most out of it. If you are returning to the gym now that COVID-19 restrictions allow you to, be aware that load management principles apply here too. Make an appointment with one of our physiotherapists at Maxvale Physiotherapy for an individualised return to sports advice. Additionally, at Maxvale, we offer Clinical Pilates exercise and Hydrotherapy which are both great ways to condition yourself for the rigours of sport.
By utilising the above points, you will not just reduce your risk for injury but also improve your performance. Exposure to a training load will improve your cardiovascular fitness, strength and dynamic performance! Take the ‘Nordic hamstring’ exercise; a well-known exercise for hamstring injury prevention. A study tested soccer players who completed this exercise and found that they had superior gains in speed as compared to those players who didn’t complete this exercise. In contact sports, increased strength will allow you to break tackles. Landing and jump training will not just decrease the chance of injury with these activities but make you better at them!
You may be thinking what’s the best way to program my training? What areas to do I focus on? What’s the best sort of training for my sport? Here at Maxvale Physiotherapy, we offer return to sport screening specifically designed to identify areas of weakness. We can then create a program for you to eliminate areas of weakness to both prevent injury and improve your performance! We offer screening over two 30-minute sessions both on land and in water. Make an appointment with one of our Physiotherapists if you’re are keen to return to sport injury free and performing better than ever!
Van Dyk, N., Behan, F. P., & Whiteley, R. (2019). Including the Nordic hamstring exercise in injury prevention programmes halves the rate of hamstring injuries: a systematic review and meta-analysis of 8459 athletes. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 53(21), 1362–1370. https://doi.org/10.1136/bjsports-2018-100045
Ishøi, Hölmich, Aagaard, Thorborg, Bandholm, & Serner. (2018). Effects of the Nordic Hamstring exercise on sprint capacity in male football players: a randomized controlled trial. Journal of Sports Sciences, 36(14), 1663–1672. https://doi.org/10.1080/02640414.2017.1409609
Windt, J., Gabbett, T. J., Ferris, D., & Khan, K. M. (2017). Training load–injury paradox: is greater preseason participation associated with lower in-season injury risk in elite rugby league players? British Journal of Sports Medicine, 51(8), 645–650. https://doi.org/10.1136/bjsports-2016-095973
Herman, K., Barton, C., Malliaras, P., & Morrissey, D. (2012). The effectiveness of neuromuscular warm-up strategies, that require no additional equipment, for preventing lower limb injuries during sports participation: a systematic review. BMC Medicine, 10(1), 75. https://doi.org/10.1186/1741-7015-10-75
Barton, C. J. (2018). Managing RISK when treating the injured runner with running retraining, load management and exercise therapy. Physical therapy in sport: official journal of the Association of Chartered Physiotherapists in Sports Medicine, 29, 79.