Injury Prevention Tips for ‘Weekend Warriors’

By Nick

If you no longer have the carefree fitness that comes with youth… but you still want to spend your weekends running around in a muddy field with a ball, read this post for a little reminder about how to give yourself the best chance of staying injury free in the upcoming season.

Specific conditioning is best

During the season you are better served by training and preparing in similar environments. If you play netball or football then a run or 2 a week on the flat with some variable speed would be more specific than going for a swim. The variable speed training conditions for the explosive moments in a game and can be as simple as increasing the speed to 75% maximum to the next lamp post. You should also try to mimic further aspects of your sport i.e. change of direction, jumping, heading, passing, lunging, kicking, twisting and tackling.

Manage your niggles

Niggles and injuries are best dealt with quickly. The old RICEM approach for the first 48 hours is still the best. Small niggles can usually be managed with icing. Keep in mind they are often a result of overloading so you may require a rest day, some technique improvement, or a check to see you are using suitable equipment.  Also, be beware of DOMs (delayed onset muscle soreness) which is basically pain felt 1 -3 days (dependent on age) following new exercises that the muscles are not conditioned for. These are micro muscle injuries, should be managed carefully with light pain free exercise and settle quickly within 1 – 2 days.

What if I’ve really tweaked it

Where a blow or strain has occurred, in the first 48 hours you are trying to reduce any bleeding.  The old RICEM approach for the first 48hours is best.  Heat is not appropriate here because it will increase blood flow to the area and increase bleeding into the tissues. After 48 hours heat or ice are suitable. If swollen I recommend elevation, for example ankle swelling would respond best to lying on the floor with your feet up the wall for 30 minutes plus. Where pain is the main concern ice or heat might be best. You should seek some early advice from your physiotherapist.

Ease into the season

I know it’s hard not to get stuck-in game one but, if you haven’t had a lot of time to prepare for the season and few games, you are more likely to have problems. By easing into the season you are making sure that your body is conditioning for the sideways and rotatory movements as well as those explosive intercepts. By the time you get to game three and four, you will be seeing some match fitness.

The right equipment

Having proper running shoes for your running training makes a world of difference.  Running shoes should be suited to your specific foot type – pronater, neutral or supinator.  Each code has a set of safety equipment and appropriate clothing and footwear. Poor equipment will alter how you move and increase your risk of injury.

Why do I keep hurting my Achilles/Calf

I am sorry to say this but there is an element of ageing here! As we get beyond our teenage years the muscle tendon complex gradually becomes more stiff and less elastic. Combined with us generally becoming a little heavier and still wanting to run around a sports field, the calf complex is under significant load. I often explain that if you are walking quickly the force travelling through the calf is about 4 x your body weight. If you are sprinting that force rises to 10 x your body weight.  In addition calf strains in the weekend warrior should not be ignored – the chance of complete rupture is much greater in the 30 – 50 age group.

Technique wins

There are those athletes who we notice always look like they have so much time when they play the game. They make it look so easy and they appear so graceful. This is often a mix of talent, genetics, hard work, and good posture. In most sports and activities in life, working around neutral spinal postures enhances core stability, strength and power, and it looks pretty good. Try to think about particular parts of the game or drills and get into some good postures when doing them. It’s never too late to practise good technique.

Cross train, or not?

As mentioned above I think that specificity is best particularly where you have limited time. The exception to this is where you have niggles; where your body will not tolerate a couple of sessions of loading a week; and where it’s not practical. Cross training is a very valid way of staying in shape, varying the forces on your body, aiding recovery from endurance activities, and mentally keeping fresh through the season.  Cycling, swimming or aqua-jogging are perfect ways to achieve this.

Can you score the winner?

It is worth thinking about hydration. When you get dehydrated you lose concentration, your energy levels drop and your performance suffers. To be in the game at the end and in place to score the winner drinking through the game or replacing fluids at half time will make a difference. Even when it is cool you will still be losing fluid through sweating.

How important is my warm up

It is a matter of common sense really. Sometimes my warm-ups consist of standing on my toes and putting the nets up! Whilst not at all ideal I will try on these days to ease into the game. I say common sense because as I mentioned above the force differential between say walking and sprinting is huge. You need to prepare, particularly ageing muscles and tendons etc, for the likelihood that in the next 5 minutes you might be asking them to sprint. Regarding warm downs, they are mainly to enhance recovery. They are a good time to do long stretching of those tight muscles. I would also recommend these particularly when you have another game in the next few days or hours.

(Source: Willis Street Physiotherapy)

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