Sports injuries: Prevention and treatment

Sports injuries: Prevention and treatment
Updated 06 March 2013

Sports injuries: Prevention and treatment

Sports injuries: Prevention and treatment

Participating in sports and exercising on a regular basis are important to maintain a healthy body. Plenty of studies have once and again shown the numerous benefits of engaging in physical activity, such as weight maintenance, prevention of health conditions and diseases, boosting mood, and increasing energy levels. The flipside of the coin is that the risk of sports injuries is always present, relentlessly thwarting all our efforts to get in shape.
Fortunately, most of the time, injuries are temporary and there are ways to avoid them at all, or at least diminish the risk of getting injured.
Basically, there are two types of injuries. Traumatic injuries are caused by something outside the person. These are common in contact sports and include dislocation, fracture, contusion, and muscle strain. These are sudden injuries, in which the damage happens quickly as the result of an accident. The second and more common types are chronic and overuse injuries. They happen mostly in repetitive sports such as running, cycling, or tennis and occur over time due to exhausting specific parts of the body. Although traumatic injuries cannot always be avoided, the chance of chronic and overuse injuries can be decreased substantially. To make sure you can keep up your exercise routine, take these steps to prevent injuries.

Always warm up
The good news: As Saudi Arabia has a warm climate, injuries caused by not doing a proper warm up before engaging in strenuous exercise are less likely to happen here. However, it is still important to warm your body up before sports, especially if you are planning to have a vigorous workout or enter a competition. Your body and mind need time to get into the “exercise mode”. While you gradually increase the intensity of your workout, your heart will start pumping more blood – and oxygen – to your muscles; your muscles get warmer, making them more extensible; and you prepare yourself mentally for what is coming next. The rise in body temperature also improves the efficiency of muscle contraction, which prevents cramps, among other things. Apart from that, warming up prepares you psychologically for the activity. So, start with a brisk walk, increasing your pace over time and do some stretching before you start a competition or race.

Gradually increase duration and intensity
If you have never worked out before, or if it has been a long time since you last exercised, chances are you will be too eager in your first exercising session, consequently pushing yourself well beyond your limits. This is the most guaranteed way to get injured. Not coincidentally, most injuries occur at the beginning of the season, even among professional athletes. Giving your body the time to adapt to your training regime is the only solution. Start slowly, and increase the duration and intensity of your exercise gradually. Even if you only took a short break, either because you were out of town, busy, or had the flu, take the time to get back to your training routine. Also remember that although your heart, muscles and lungs need only weeks to get stronger, your tendons, joints, and ligaments need much longer, so give your body the time. And no matter how trained you are, always have at least one day off per week to give the body time to recover.

Use proper technique and equipment
Some sports seem more complicated than others. No one would think of doing gymnastics without a professional trainer, but other sports, such as running or football, are often done without a coach. However, in all sports, the use of proper technique is key in preventing injuries, so don’t hesitate to read online or ask a professional for advice. Besides learning the correct techniques, make sure you have the right equipment for your activity. Buy proper running shoes if you go jogging, wear a helmet if cycling is your passion, and protect your lower legs with shin guards while playing football.

Resistance training
As mentioned before, chronic and overuse injuries often occur in monotonous sports. The repetitive movements continuously stress the same muscles, joints, and tendons in your body, leading to structural and muscle imbalances that may cause injuries. Strength training will make your whole body stronger and more balanced if you also train the muscles you don’t use during the sport you practice. Also, the stronger the muscles, the better they protect joints and tendons, which is important if you do sports that involve a lot of running and jumping. Weight training increases bone density, offsetting age-related bone loss. Enhancing strength will also help you recover faster in case you get injured and reduce the extent of damage related to an injury.

Treating injuries: Price
Most overuse and soft tissue injuries (such as sprains, strains, muscle pull, or tear) can be treated by following the PRICE protocol, which stands for Protection, Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation. If an injury occurs, stop the activity and protect the injured part from further damage.
Consequently, rest the injured muscle, although generally, not more than 48 hours of immobilization are needed, depending on the severity of the injury. Usually, the sooner you become active again, the faster is the recovery.
Ice will prevent the area from swelling and will relieve the pain. Never apply ice directly to the skin though. Use a cold pack or bag of frozen peas wrapped in a towel, and don’t leave it for more than 20 minutes at a time.
Compression by wrapping a bandage around the injured part also helps reduce swelling. Elevation of the injured arm or leg – preferably above the level of the heart – will also control swelling.
If you suspect a more serious injury, such as a fracture or dislocation, or you are unable to move the body part after 48 hours of rest, visit your GP, who will examine the injured body part and may refer you for an X-ray.

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