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How to prevent winter sports injuries

A reminder when watching the Olympic snow sports in China that our winter is on its way and with it many will be returning to sports and specifically contact sports. Here in Melbourne, football is extremely popular but rugby and soccer also have significant participant numbers. Given many of us have had extended time off sport over the past year, there is concern about the potential for increased injury rates for the upcoming season. Now is a good time to consider injury prevention strategies and start to implement those strategies to reduce your injury risk.

What injuries should I consider?

In Footy, Netball, Rugby and Soccer many injuries occur during contact. Joint and ligament injuries tend to happen when forces through a joint strain it too far in a direction. This can result in tearing or stretching of soft tissues along with bruising of soft tissue, cartilage and in some cases bone bruising. Look out specifically for ankle, knee, shoulder and arm injuries along with occasional spine (back and neck) injuries from contact.

How can I train to avoid these injuries?

While some variables in contact are uncontrollable, some can be addressed and dealt with in training. Conditioning the body to contact helps reduce the impact of collisions. This is typically done during pre-season training and is quite important to achieve before the season starts. Good tackling technique is essential to reduce injury risk of both yourself and others on the field so again make sure you focus on this during pre-season training. Learning how to brace your body for a collision will also help prepare you for the season even if tackling is not a main part of your sport i.e., netball. Building load and exercise tolerances is essential before the season starts, ensuring you are fit and have been doing running and other impact-based exercise will build the load tolerances suitable for sport. Those who fatigue faster are more likely to get injured.

What else can I do about injury prevention?

Not all injury prevention strategies need to be done at training. Non-contact injuries are also very common and typically preventable. If muscle memory, strength and mobility are all in working order your body should be able to manage the loads of accelerating, decelerating, landing and changing direction. However, if your muscles aren’t activating correctly to support your lower limb there is a risk of injury. Ensuring your technique is correct for landing and changing direction can be done at home, in the back yard, or at the park by yourself. Given these injuries are among the most preventable, make sure you’ve addressed the biomechanics before the season starts. Stretching was traditionally used in injury prevention but now the evidence supports strengthening and conditioning too, so come to your physio with these questions and we can address them with you according your specific sport.

Consider your individual role and injury history:

Different positions in a team have different physical demands. Make sure you aren’t just doing generic strength and conditioning, but exercises that are specific to your role and your sport. If you spend more time bending and pushing, include those exercises in your program. Whereas, if you are spending more time jumping, landing and twisting then ensure those exercises are covered in your training.

Snow sports:

Good leg strength for all snow sports is vital, as well as general all over conditioning. Isometric quadriceps strength training, hamstring and glute strength programs can be designed as a home-based activity and can be commenced now with progression to sport specific exercises closer to the season. 
It’s often said prevention is better than cure, so now is the time to be proactive and engage in injury prevention before the season starts. If you feel you are out of condition and need help identifying weaknesses, or need direction in the best strategies to employ before you start training, contact us at Fairfield Physiotherapy for a thorough assessment and individualised program.