For football players, soccer players, and athletes who play other sports during the fall, September means it’s time to get back in the game. But before you hit the field, it's important to remember that sports injuries are always a risk -- especially if you haven't been active all summer.
Most common injuries are preventable, and sport injuries are no exception. Preventing sports injuries is simple, but important: With a little preparation and precaution, you can ensure that your body is ready to play, protect yourself from common sports injuries, and minimize your risk of getting hurt this fall.
At , we see athletes who have sustained both minor and serious injuries every fall sports season. Our team of orthopedic is dedicated to helping athletes of all levels prevent sports injuries, and offering treatment when a sports-related injury does occur.
Here are the top five sports injury prevention tips every athlete should know this fall:
1. Wear Proper Equipment
Wearing the appropriate protective equipment is a must for preventing sports injuries. This is true for all sports, but especially contact sports like football and soccer. This is because, in contact sports, there is a greater risk for players to collide with each other or the ground, which can lead to serious injuries.
The type of equipment you need will vary depending on the sport you’re playing. Some of the most essential types of protective gear include:
- Shoulder and knee pads
- Face guards
- Protective cups
- Mouth guards
If you're not sure what type of equipment you need, talk to your coach or a sports medicine specialist. They can help you choose the right gear to keep you safe on the playing field.
2. Don't Forget to Warm Up & Cool Down
You may have heard about 'cold muscles' vs 'warm muscles' when it comes to performance and injury prevention. When your muscles are cold -- meaning they haven't been properly warmed up -- they're more likely to be injured because they're tight and less flexible. Many injuries occur as a result of tight muscles, such as pulled hamstrings, groin strains, and Achilles tendon injuries. That's why it's important to perform a proper warm-up before playing any sport, especially if you haven't played in months.
A proper warm-up will not only help loosen your muscles, but will also increase your heart rate and body temperature, which can improve your athletic performance. A good warm-up should last at least 10 minutes, and should include both light aerobic activity (like jumping jacks) and dynamic stretching exercises (like leg swings).
It's also important to cool down after playing any sport. Cooling down helps your body gradually return to its normal state and can help prevent blood pooling in your extremities (which can lead to lightheadedness and dizziness). A good cool-down should last for at least 5 minutes and should include both static stretching exercises (like quad stretches) and light aerobic activity (like walking).
Regular stretching throughout the day can also help prevent sports injuries by keeping your muscles loose and flexible. Many stretches are easy to perform during downtime, like when you first wake up in the morning or before going to bed at night.
3. Keep Your Body in Shape
For many fall athletes, the start of the season marks the end of a long break from playing their sport. If you've taken several months off from playing, it's important to ease your way back into things to avoid overstressing your body and putting you at increased risk of injury.
One of the best ways to do this is by gradually adding physical activity back into your routine several weeks before the start of the season. This will help your body become accustomed to the demands of your sport and can help prevent injuries when you start playing again.
In addition to gradually adding physical activity, it's also important to maintain a balanced workout routine. Strength training for both the lower body and upper body should be a part of every athlete's workout routine -- by strengthening the muscles around your joints, you can help prevent knee injuries, shoulder injuries, and other common sports injuries.
4. Use Proper Technique
Using proper technique when playing any sport is critical for preventing injuries. This is because performing the movements required by your sport the proper way can help you avoid putting too much stress on your joints and muscles, which can lead to overuse injuries.
For example, if you play football, proper tackling techniques can help prevent shoulder injuries. Likewise, if you play basketball, proper shooting techniques can help prevent wrist and elbow injuries. If you're not sure about the proper technique for your sport, talk to your coach or a sports medicine specialist. They can help ensure that you have the proper training to avoid injury.
5. Rest When You Need To
It's extremely important for any athlete to listen to their body and take a break when they're experiencing pain or soreness. Continuing to play through the pain isn't better for you or your team -- it can put you at risk of sustaining more injuries or worsening an existing injury. When left untreated, simple overuse injuries can lead to long-term problems that may require surgery to correct.
If you're injured, it's important to seek medical care as soon as possible. A sports injury doctor can assess your injury and develop a treatment plan that can help you heal and get back to playing as soon as possible.
This isn't only true if you're in pain. Breaks are also important for preventing mental burnout, which can impact your athletic performance. If you're feeling overwhelmed or stressed, take a step back and focus on taking care of yourself -- getting enough sleep, eating a balanced diet, and spending time with friends and family. These activities can help reduce stress and improve your overall well-being, both of which are critical for peak performance.
Visit the Top Sports Medicine Doctor Near You
With these sports injury prevention tips, you can play safe and help reduce your risk of sustaining an injury this fall. However, even if you take all the necessary precautions, accidents can still happen, and prevention of sports injuries isn't possible in every scenario. If you do find yourself dealing with a sports injury, it's important to seek a healthcare provider as soon as possible.
At , our team of top sports medicine doctors specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of all types of sports injuries. We offer comprehensive care for athletes of all ages and levels of experience, and we're always focused on helping you safely return to the game.