Injury prevention and rehabilitation of sporting teams
As a sports focused physiotherapist, some of the most common questions I receive are based around team warm ups, especially around this time of year, when most teams are getting ready for their winter sport season.
For the last 2 months, I have been asked questions like:
“How should I stretch before we play? “
“What should our team warm up involve before we play?”
“Is there a way we can avoid injury?”
I commonly see injuries such as ankle sprains, hamstring or calf tears, as well as ACL tears, so educating sporting teams about the best way to prevent injuries will help you stay healthy, and will improve your sporting performance as well.
What current literature says about injury prevention
Back in the day, people use to hold a stretch for anywhere up to a minute as it was thought to help ‘loosen the muscle’ and get the players ready for sport. However, what we know today, and what the current literature suggests, tells us otherwise.
A functional dynamic stretching program dependant on your sport is the way to go. Studies show that dynamic (or movement based stretching) is a great way to warm up as it not only helps temporarily improve range of motion but also improves the power output from those muscles. In stretching a muscle dynamically, e.g., with some walking lunges, hip swings or high knees, you are preparing the muscle to be used in a functional way needed for your sport.
Pre-season strength and conditioning programs
However, even though dynamic stretching is a helpful way to prepare, in my opinion, nothing can beat a good pre-season strength and conditioning program to help strengthen your body. After all, you can’t go wrong getting strong!
There are now a lot of programs out there, which have proven to help reduce the risk of hamstrings injuries and ACL tears, such as the Fifa 11 and the AFL FootyFirst. Both programs include lots of core work, lower body strength work, and (performed at a light intensity) the expected movements of that sport; for example, jumping, sidestepping, and shoulder to shoulder contact. I can personally vouch for the effectiveness of these programs after having completed them for many years as a soccer player, and endorse them as a physiotherapist.
To summarise the best tips for injury prevention, I recommend:
- Having a good pre season training program, including strength work.
- Incorporating dynamic stretching prior to training / game days.
- Letting your coach know about injury prevention programs.
No-one wants to get injured – so with the above tips, you will be well on your way to a healthy and injury-free sporting season!