One of the most important, yet least talked about subjects is the importance of injury prevention in sports. It’s one thing to increase your vertical, put on muscle and gain a ton of speed if you’re still susceptible to injury. Over the course of your competitive and off season, there’s a number of protocols you should be implementing into your training routine. A few examples might be active recovery, mobility, band-work, etc… (we’ll get into it).
First I want to discuss why it’s important to put such an emphasis on your injury prevention. Why?
I believe we’re much better at adopting and implementing new habits when we fully understand the spectrum of benefits. That way when it becomes a matter of discipline, you’re much more inclined to stick to it and follow through with your recovery protocol.
Why is sports injury prevention so important?
The truth is, once you get hurt you’re a whole lot more susceptible to more injuries throughout the years. Many talented athletes have had their careers sidelined from just one injury, many of which could have been prevented with proper recovery and rehabilitation. It’s almost impossible to totally avoid all injuries as an athlete but you can play a hand in the extent of that injury.
On the most basic level, sports injury prevention plays a role in preparing the body through a progression of movements that increase range of motion and mobility within the joints and muscle groups. Most importantly, this preps and primes the whole body for movement better preparing you for your workout and also helping to keep you from getting hurt as often or as badly. It’s super common for athletes to sustain some sort of injury and have to spend the next few months taking time off, going through rehab, and then easing back into normal training.
The more time you’re able to play through your high school and college sports career, the more minutes you track in which you’re both open for scoring opportunities and just basic playing time. This is really important for you to not only improve in your craft and learn where you need to focus your efforts, but to also open yourself up for future opportunities. Avoiding injury represents resilience to future coaches and is a sign that you engage in recovery often and recover well. Top athletes spend almost more time on recovery than they do time in the gym for sports injury prevention.
Keep reading for some injury prevention examples…
What is sports injury prevention?
“Sports injury prevention is all about mitigating as much traumatic damage as possible to muscles, tendons, ligaments, joints, bones, and nerves while active”- Medic8. While working with my athletes, this may look like specific rehab drills or mobility movement that is pertaining to commonly or often-performed movement patterns.
Some of the most common sports-related injuries are as follows:
- Sprains & strains
- Muscle swelling
Even more specifically, the most common injuries I’ve seen in athletes before implementing the following recovery drills are…
- Tight hamstrings or Hamstring tear while sprinting
- Shoulder / rotator cuff
- Jumper’s Knee
With the amount of technical work we do firing the nervous system, developing joint range and muscle strength it’s easy to accumulate wear and tear when not using the appropriate load or proper form. Sports injury prevention is as much a part of your training regime as lifting weights, doing sprint drills, or vertical jumps. Here’s a few steps to prevent sports injuries in your daily, weekly, and monthly training scheme.
3 Ways to Prevent Injuries
Below I’m going to share 3 ways to prevent injuries as an athlete. These are applicable to pretty much any athlete as you can focus specifically on muscles used in your sport or movements you use frequently in your sport i.e vertical jump for basketball players, rotational power as a baseball player or sprints as a football player.
I recommend dissecting your sport or checking out some of these specific articles to help you find rehab to include in your routine.
One of the best possible ways you can prevent injury is to warm-up. I often hear athletes dispute that warming up too much will affect their workout or performance. In my opinion however, it’s tough to warm-up too much. You should honestly be sweating by the time your warm-up is over as this is a sign that your body is fully prepared for the powerful movements about to come.
For example think if you’re doing a set of sprints. Typically your fourth, fifth, or even sixth rep will be the fastest, much faster than your first few reps. Besides literally warming the body to prepare for movement, the heart and lungs have to adapt from going from no movement to explosive movement. This period of time in which you play catch up determines how much blood the heart is able to pump out to muscles. In short, your body really performs best when warmed up so it’s beneficial to take the time to include mobility, active stretching, and low-level plyometrics such as pogo jumps.
Ensuring your body is fully warm will allow fluidity and articulate movement through your joints.
Nervous System Activation
After your body is warmed up it’s time to activate the nervous system. This is essential because it keeps you on your toes and keeps your body in the game or in the movement It’s common for athletes to injure themselves doing agility work as you move quickly through precise movement. If not totally warmed up it’s easy to misstep or land awkwardly resulting in sports injury.
I like to have my athletes perform low-level plyometrics to ensure they’re also ready for performing at a high level. When warmed up you can also work harder, and when you work harder you can perform better in competition.
I also like to use various band exercises as nervous system activation in the shoulders, knees, and hip. Check out this post on rebuilding leg strength after knee surgery using bands.
Just like your body needs to gradually warm-up, you also need to slowly slow down. Especially after power and strength training it’s super important to add mobility to the end of your training session so that you can take advantage of the range of motion. It’s very common for athletes to miss their cool down after training and wind up tight resulting some sort of injury. Bringing a focus on the importance of injury prevention in sports holds you accountable to avoid skipping your cool down and rushing out of the gym post workout.
If you’ve been experiencing any sort of aches and pains during your workout, be sure to specifically address those here. Here’s a great rehab plan for you about resolving jumpers knee.
Stretch now, play later
What if I told you that taking just an extra 10-30 minutes out of your day to work on injury prevention and recovery, you could extend the life of your game and the quality of your performance?
For the optimal recovery protocol as an athlete, you need Athletic Optimization to cover the 7 essential pillars of being an athlete: sleep optimization, active recovery, nutrition & hydration, regeneration, supplements, biomechanics and work capacity.