How can I reduce the risk of injury in sports?
How to reduce the risk of injury is one of the most common questions we get asked in the clinic. There is no simple ‘one size fits all’ answer, although there are a few key principles that apply to many sports.
First, one of the most important ways to reduce the risk of injury is through training load monitoring. Training load monitoring is the tracking of how much physical activity is completed from week to week. For example, a runner or cyclist may track their mileage or a hockey player may count the amount of time spent practicing, competing in games, or time spent in the gym.
Athletes get injured when they go through large fluctuations or dramatic changes in training load from one week to the next. In fact, there is a large body of scientific research demonstrating that increases in workload by 15 to 20% from the previous weeks' training load can result in a three to five-fold increase in risk of injury. These sudden peaks and valleys in training is where we get into trouble, so create a path to adaptation by gradually adding 5 to 10% more training per week, or maintaining training at a set level.
The second thing you can do to try and reduce the risk of injury is create variety in your training. The exact mechanism as to how this protects us against injury is up for debate but it appears that doing something outside of your regular sport is important.
Here are some ideas on how to add some variety into your training to reduce injuries:
Weight lifting or body weight exercises
Running or cycling different routes at varying intensities
Adding in plyometric exercises or
Participating in a completely different sport
We cannot underestimate the value of a good night's rest, healthy food choices, and stress management. These factors all have an affect on your health, performance, and recovery. Be sure to see injury reduction through a holistic lens while considering training load monitoring and training variability to help keep you in the game.
By Sean Overin, Physiotherapist