Preventing Sports Injuries

By Shannon Allen , last updated November 14, 2011

A sports injury can be very detrimental to any level of athlete, and preventing injury is a high priority for most athletes. Injuries cause a great deal of frustration and often become a major setback in achieving fitness and personal goals. While some injuries may be out of your control, most damage to your body is preventable. Prevent sports injuries by incorporating the following recommendations to your exercise routine.

Warm Up Properly

A good warm up is essential before all exercise to decrease the risk of injury and improve performance. Proper warm ups should increase the body temperature and oxygen delivery to the muscles through improved blood flow. As the body warms ups, joints have increased range of motion which also reduces the risk of tearing muscles and ligaments.

Warm ups should begin by increasing the heart rate and then be followed up by active stretching. A good suggestion for picking up your heart rate is to do a mild form of whatever exercise you are about to perform and gradually increase the intensity. Some examples include a slow-paced jog or swim or even some light cycling. Be sure to choose a warm up exercise that activates the muscle groups you are about to use. Once your heart is pumping, some active stretching can finish loosening you up especially muscles that have been feeling tight. Plan on spending at least 10 to 15 minutes on a good warm up.

Don’t Forget to Cool Down

Cooling down after a workout helps your body gradually return to normal conditions and recover better for your next workout. Similar to the warm up, a proper cool down gradually decreases the intensity and should be followed with stretching. The low intensity of the cool down helps remove lactic acid that most often builds up during vigorous exercise and prevents blood from pooling in the large muscles of the legs.

Finish up your cool down by stretching all the major muscle groups you used while exercising. It is best to stretch your muscles after exercising when they are still warm. Stretching helps the muscles relax and return to their resting length. Most muscles respond more favorably to stretching after work outs and this lessens the chance of injury.

Avoid Overuse

Many sports injuries are a result of overuse or over excursion. For example, going outside and throwing a baseball for an hour when you haven’t played for years is pretty much asking for injury, as is running a half marathon without preparing your body with any training. Anytime you begin a new type of exercise, remember to start slow. The risk of injury significantly lessens by gradually training your muscles and the amount of stress you place upon them.

Overuse injuries are also very common in athletes who repetitively use the same muscles. Runners are a great example of this because of the constant stress subjected to their knees and surrounding muscles. A great way to avoid overuse injuries is cross training. Mix up your workout to give different muscle groups the opportunity to rest or be used. Swimming, biking, running and yoga all work different muscles and can easily be incorporated into weekly workouts to lighten the load on overused muscles.

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