Regardless of an athlete’s age, sport, fitness level, or years of experience, some risk for injury will always exist. In general, the more contact and cutting movements that are involved in the sport, the higher the risk for acute—or traumatic—injuries. This explains why some of the highest rates of injury are found in basketball and football, since both elements are prevalent in both sports. But overtraining and failing to take adequate time to recover can also lead to injury in practically every sport.
Sports injuries often have both short– and long–term consequences that are important to understand. Immediately after an injury, an athlete will usually be sidelined for days or weeks, which temporarily prevents him or her from reaping the benefits of physical activity during that time. But when an athlete is unable to participate in a sport for several months or longer, it can lead to reduced fitness levels and weight gain if the athlete doesn’t find other ways to get active. In worst–case scenarios, athletes with severe injuries and those who return to their sport without completing rehabilitation may experience long–term impairments that prevent them regaining their pre–injury capabilities.
No athlete wants to get injured, and most should therefore be interested in finding the best ways to keep their risk for injury to a minimum. While there is unfortunately no silver bullet solution that can eliminate the risk for all injuries in all sports, there are several universal strategies that can significantly reduce it.
One of the most effective ways to reduce the risk for injury is by participating in a training program specifically designed for this purpose. There are numerous sport–specific prevention programs that have been designed to improve athletes’ strength, flexibility, and conditioning by focusing on the dynamic movements involved in their sport. Research has continuously shown that these injury–prevention programs are effective for lowering the risk of injury in a variety of sports, including the two key studies summarized below:
In addition to sport–specific injury–prevention programs, athletes of all sports should adhere to some general guidelines regarding how they train, how often they should rest, and the use of proper equipment. While some of these tips may seem like common sense, they can all go a long way in reducing injury risk:
In our next post, we’ll discuss the crucial role that physical therapy should play in helping athletes recover from sports–related injuries.