It is not running barefoot, it is not talking to someone who does Crossfit, it is not even forgetting to stretch before activity. The number one risk for injury is a previous injury. Yes, that is right, a previous injury. If you have sprained your ankle before, several studies indicate you are at a higher risk to sprain that ankle again; if you have dislocated your shoulder once, you are more likely to do it again.
So how do I lower my risk for injuries?
The obvious answer is do not get injured in the first place. And that is not just lip service; there are actually some simple things that can help you achieve this seemingly impossible goal. For instance: doing a proper warm-up, getting a good night’s sleep before activity, increasing the intensity of your workouts at a reasonable pace (mileage, duration, resistance etc.), staying hydrated, remembering that rest days are an important part of any effective training plan, and finally listening to your body. While it is not always the case, your body often gives you many warning signs that something is not quite right and if you ignore those signs or use pain killers to drown out those signals then you are setting yourself up for failure.
What if I have already been injured? Does that mean I am doomed to failure, and I should just quit right now and move into a bubble?
Of course you are not doomed. You simply need to put in the work to help lower your risk. In addition to all of the things listed above, you need to properly rehabilitate your injury. Even after the pain has subsided you may still have some compensations that effect how you move. Sometimes those compensations are obvious (like a limp) and others times they are less so (like one muscle is not doing its job so another muscle picks up double shifts to cover the load). If you are coming back from a significant injury or you feel like something is still off even though your pain is gone it may be a good idea to have a movement screen or gait analysis done to identify any lingering problems.
The next thing you need to do is modify your behavior. Think about what caused your injury and do something to change it. If you pulled your hamstring running to 2nd base during the softball game at the company picnic, you could give up playing softball entirely... But a better option might be to go for a run or ride your bike a few times a week before your softball game. If you don’t use it, you lose it and playing a sport occasionally is often not enough for most peoples’ bodies to adapt properly. If you are not sure where your injury came from, then there may be any number of things you need to look at and maybe more than one. Did you increase your intensity too quickly; do you have the proper equipment such as a bike helmet that fits, shoes that meet your needs and inserts that were not worn out 5 years ago? Is your poor posture at work setting you up for failure on the track, tight calves, tight hips? If you do not remove or modify the cause of your injury then you should not be surprised if it comes back.
Remember the key take away today is that while the number one risk for injury is previous injury, there are things you can do to lower your risk. If you would like more instruction on how you can specifically reduce your risk for injury, talking to your active healthcare provider or a qualified coach for your sport is a great place to start. And you are always welcome to take advantage of our free 15 min consultation to see what we can do for you here at SportsPlus