Top 5 tips for staying injury free this winter

Top 5 tips for staying injury free this winter

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Being sidelined with an ankle injury (yet another one!) has been really tough.

It’s been hard watching my basketball team from the sidelines not able to help! Especially when we’re down on numbers and without substitute players to give us that extra spring in our step late in games.

I now know first hand how frustrating it is, being unable to participate in the things you love. Whether it’s playing a sport, going to the gym, bushwalking or tai chi- not being able to take part in your hobby (especially in Sydney’s glorious winter) is tough.

Let’s be honest, winter is a time of year when all of our activity levels seem to drop, and food intake seems to increase (cosy food for the win!) Despite this I know how important it is to keep active for our mental and physical health this season.

Having played many seasons of basketball, rugby and soccer over the years- I know the rigors of week to week sport and training. I’ve found over the years that I have to do more to keep my body in check and avoid injuries. I also seem to take much longer to recover from the games and injuries than I used to (must be old age). And whilst some injuries are unavoidable parts of the game, many can be avoided by taking the time to prepare and recover your body adequately.

So I’m hopeful that this list can help you avoid that pain and keep you on the court or field this season.

If you’re keen to put your best foot forward this year, check out the list below!

Prepare, prepare, prepare!

Pre-season is your friend. There is a good reason why most elite sporting teams spend many months preparing for the season to follow. Injury prevention should be a year round consideration, and needs to start well before playing the first game of the season. Gradually building up your match fitness will drastically help to prevent fatigue, overuse injuries and your overall risk profile for the season. The off-season is also the perfect time to work on the strength and flexibility that you might not have time to once the season kicks off. More on the importance of cross training below. This pacing principle applies to any new activity that you want to start. Remember our bodies do not cope well with big or sudden changes in workload. Even with sky-high motivation, jumping into your gyms latest high intensity group class without any preparation should be avoided. The same goes for launching into the first game of a new season without any conditioning work.

Is your warm up dynamic?

Before training or playing, why not engage in a progressive warm up which covers all the major joints and muscles which you will be using for your sport? This might include some light jogging or running followed by some whole body movements- such as lunges with twists, squats with reaches- the options are endless! Before your game, it's a great idea to also go through some of the skills and key movements that you will perform in your game. For me as a basketballer, this often includes some shooting, dribbling, jumping and layups. In addition to warming up my tendons, joints and muscles, this dynamic warm up always helps me prepare myself mentally and get my head in the game (think Troy Bolton).

Cross Training Balance

Cross training is a fantastic way to keep your body in good condition all year around. Aside from playing and training for your sport- cross training with different types of exercise can be very beneficial. Not only does this spread the load on your body, it may also allow you to work on facets of your health to help with your main sport or activity. Whether it’s your flexibility for soccer, your strength for running or your fitness for basketball, a well designed and balanced program will also help your performance on game day! An exercise physiologist can help you put together a sport specific and well spread program that’ll keep you motivated and pushing towards your bigger goals and the end of the season.

Tackle those niggles EARLY

This has to be my favourite tip! My role as a physiotherapist would be much easier if more people were willing and able to action this. And I’m the first to admit, I haven't always done this myself in my years playing sport. It’s much easier to just hope a sore knee, heel or shoulder will go away with the help of a beer, panadol or Netflix. However, treating clients over the years has taught me that dealing with niggles well is a skill that can save you time, money and time on the couch (and off the field!). Getting to know how to use tape, self massage tools such as spikey balls and regular stretching can assist you manage any sore spots that present themselves. I can’t tell you the number of people who come in months after something has started and it has either become much worse or progressed into a more serious injury! Definitely something we want to try and avoid.

Recover and Rest

Probably the most neglected part of this list! Again I will put my hand up and admit that I often don’t take enough time to properly recover after my gym sessions and games. I know it’s tempting to crack open a cold drink and relax after the Saturday game, but future you isn’t going to be thanking you! After any hard game or session you should take the time to cool down and start healing process. It’s also the perfect time to work on mobility for recovery and any movement restrictions (or injuries!) which are holding you back. As mentioned above a specific stretching routine and use of self massage tools can help you feel better sooner. Personally I’ve also found that I’m much more likely to get injured or do something incorrectly when I’m tired- so getting enough sleep and rest is another vital part of your injury prevention routine. There’s evidence to suggest that sleep hours (i.e. getting enough) can have positive connections to injury prevention- See here for more. I also like the punch line to their article “Can you fight off injury by spending more time in bed?” (if so SIGN ME UP!)

So I hope that you’ve found some of these tips helpful for your injury management this year- comment below if you have any other ideas of things you have tried! Contact us via the form below if you need any help managing any of your injuries or ailments.

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