Preventing Injury – Pre-season & Beyond

Tough Cookie Blog

by James Thomas, Physiotherapist

With pre-season training for winter sports now in full swing and school sports starting for many, now is the perfect time to build a good injury prevention program, to enable your best, injury free performance throughout the season.

An athlete is any person that competes in one or more sports involving physical strength, speed, endurance or skill. Despite the different demands for a social sportsperson compared to an elite athlete; the same principles apply in regards to training, preparation, and injury prevention.
Physical Screening – A physiotherapist can conduct a thorough screening of posture, gait, and muscle and joint flexibility and strength, in combination with neuromuscular movement patterns for powerful movements such as jumping, landing, and squatting. This can highlight any imbalances or risks for injury that may be present, and an exercise program can be developed to help minimise any risk factors found.
Progression – During pre-season training, it is important to gradually progress training load, to reduce injury risk, and increase cardio-vascular gains. We’re all familiar with the story of showing up to the first pre-season session after a couple months of inactivity during the off-season, only to be faced with a 10km run, hill sprints, or suicide-runs. This overloading of unprepared muscles and joints can lead to commonly seen conditions such as foot, shin, and knee pain. By gradually increasing the training load during pre-season, the muscles, tendons and joints have time to recover and strengthen in preparation for further training. In fact, studies of Queensland rugby league players found that a graduated progression of training load and intensity during the pre-season resulted in a significant reduction of injuries, while actually increasing the player’s maximal aerobic power.
Prevention – A well designed injury prevention program, aimed at the specific demands of a sport, such as the FIFA 11+ for soccer, is essential at maintaining the reduced risk of injury throughout the season. Completion of these programs prior to training and games doesn’t take long when the athlete is familiar with the program, and can reduce the pain and time lost to injury over the course of a season. A physiotherapist can direct you to the most appropriate program for your sport, or design one individualised for you.
Despite these measures, sport is of a physical nature, and is designed to push your body faster, higher, and stronger – so injuries do still occur. Correct assessment of the injury by a physiotherapist will enable optimal recovery and help prevent recurrence, to minimise time away from your sport.