How can I stop myself getting injured is a question that every therapist gets asked regularly. It is unfortunately a bit like asking how long is a piece of string and the question should really be how can I reduce my chances of injuring myself.
Injuries happen for a number of reasons even when we are being sensible in our training approach, all the more so when involved in competitive sport. So how do we minimise our injury risk? There has been a lot of talk around the likes of Gray Cook’s FMS and other “screens” that aim to reduce your chances of injury by identifying movement problems and addressing them. Yet there is very little evidence to back them up but there is plenty of evidence that show’s previous injury gives us an insight to potential future injury, that is you are more likely to re-injure yourself than injure a new area. From this we can then see the importance of getting injuries treated quickly and ensuring that they are fully rehabbed so as to reduce the likely hood of re-injuring them.
So what are the important aspects to consider when trying to reduce the chances of injuries occurring.
Lets look at them;
Load management; essentially making sure you aren’t doing too much. This can mean either volume or intensity of effort. When you ramp either of them up too quickly, ideally no more than 10% increases per week, oyou create potential problems. . At best you are looking at some unproductive training very quickly and at worst an injury. In both cases you are you are unable to cope with the stress the training load you are doing. It is worth remembering that when planning a training cycle to factor in not just the training load but also other factors like work schedule, family life etc as these are just as important as what you are doing in training in terms of how your recovery is affected.
Strength training; Strength training is an important component of any training program regardless of the sport. In some it offers more obvious advantages than others but few athletes wouldn’t benefit from it being part of their program. Strength levels obviously be different for the endurance athlete vs a more power orientated sport but getting stronger helps build the capacity to tolerate higher training loads it also has benefits in terms of injury prevention, as I talk about here. In the post I discuss an article from the BJSM that showed how injury rates in those programs which included strength training reduced the injury rate to about 30% of those that did not include it.
Movement skill; How well you perform the movements required of you are surprisingly low down in 3rd place. This might come as a surprise as we tend to think of movement quality as being very important. It is true to some extent but not as important as training load. Our bodies are pretty robust and can tolerate a lot of abuse. If you don’t perform a movement well you are working less efficiently but manage the training load and it isn’t a big issue. This isn’t a pass on improving your skills simply a reflection of the fact that load and strength are probably more important.
Flexibility; Very few activities require large ranges of movement in the major joints. If you look at running your hips and knees don’t really go through much ROM at all compared to what a healthy adult can be expected to do. This said having a reasonable ROM at the major joints is a good idea, reasonable being normal ROM such as being able to comfortably bring your knee to your chest when lying down, but you definitely don’t need to be able to perform the splits.
Of the sensible options available we then have taping, strapping and braces. These can help, possibly as much in a placebo type manner as any, but if something is going to happen it is likely that they won’treally stop it from happening.
The finally we have other quackery and bullshit which doesn’t really add anything to the mix but be sound/look great but beyond that doesn’t actually do anything.