The days are shortening, the weather cooling and the excitement growing as another winter sports season has begun.
Along with it will be the growing number of injuries that we see in the clinic. Some of these injuries are an inevitable consequence of playing a competitive contact sport which incorporates all the elements of unpredictability and risk that make sport so enjoyable.
The chances of some types of injuries however can be reduced by following the suggestions below. The main reason for this type of ‘preventable’ injury is that no preparation or planning has been followed which will help prevent the inevitable overuse injury that we will see if these simple steps are not followed as the season begins.
• MAINTAIN SOME BASE FITNESS
In the off season it is still important to maintain a base level of physical fitness, you should have continued with some physical activity; such as a summer sport, walking, jogging, going to the gym, Pilates, yoga, personal training, or x-training. There are so many options.
At Willis Street Physiotherapy we would suggest that you partake in something similar to our weekly Fast-fit or Gravity-fit classes which can be tailored to your needs to ensure that you are actually in better shape as you go into the next season. This is important regardless of what level you compete at, the off-season program can be designed to whatever level you wish to attain.
• TAILOR YOUR EXERCISE TO YOUR CURRENT FITNESS LEVEL
This takes a bit of practice and experience to gauge just how hard you should push yourself in order to make the necessary gains in fitness without risking injury.
There are some basic premises to follow;
Exercise at a level that you can comfortably hold a conversation
Maintain your heart rate at around 70-80% of its maximum. Maximum can be roughly calculated at 220 beats per min – age. So if you are 40 years old then you maximum training heart rate would be 180 beats per minute and your ‘training zone’ around 126 – 144 beats per minute. This would be a good guestimate to follow and can be tailored depending on your personal health and fitness factors, and any medical conditions would need to be taken into account also.
At Willis Street Physiotherapy we have physiotherapists and personal trainers that can help you design a program which will ensure you safely achieve your goals.
• RAMPING UP
Once you have identified a safe starting point then it is important that you increase the loads on your system gradually so that it will cope with the extra demands, become ‘fitter’ and reduce your chance of injury.
At Willis Street Physiotherapy we follow the recommendation that this gradual increase in load is around 10% per week. It is important to remember that it is usual for your cardiovascular system to be able to withstand a greater increase in work than this, but the musculoskeletal system, for example the Achilles tendon cannot.
• CHECK YOUR RUNNING STYLE
This is something that is so rarely done, and seldom thought of, as it is presumed that it just comes naturally, but some recent evidence is pointing to the importance of this in reducing your injuries and making you run more efficiently.
At Willis Street Physiotherapy we can analyse your running style and from this we can make suggestions on what stretches or exercises you need to do. This is tailored specifically to you and you will be videoed before and after so that you can also see the changes that you will need to and have consequenlty made.
• WARM UP
There is much controversy in the literature about the importance of warm up and what it should involve. It is also heavily dependent on the nature of your sport and certain aspects need to be meet to help ensure that your body will be sufficiently ready to begin the game.
• PHYSICAL PREPARATION / TRAINING
It is important to incorporate many aspects of your sport within a training session / programme. For example, football training could be divided up into: a session on endurance, another on variable speed including some sprinting, and another on sport specific agility. These can also be combined with ball or technique/tactical aspects to make it functionally sport specific and more enjoable. You should try to address all aspects even if you have limited time.
• WARM DOWN
Again this is heavily influenced by the sport and also to some extent your own personal needs dependent on the level that you participate. For instance there seems to be strong support for Ice Baths to aid recovery, but how keen are you? Massage has been also shown to aid recovery and is comparatively ‘nicer’.
At Willis Street Physiotherapy we can help you design a warm up, training, and recovery strategy that will aid you in avoiding injury. We also have an experienced Massage Therapist, Barb Baigent, who will help loosen off those tired and stressed muscles and aid your recovery.
• MAINTAIN A GOOD HEALTHY EATING PLAN
Good nutrition is paramount throughout the year, it is essential to maintain good health and aid recovery from exercise and the stresses and strains of life.
At Willis Street Physiotherapy we are very fortunate to have Felicity Leahy, Naturopath and Medical Herbalist with a background in Biomedical Science; as well as Helen Padarin, an internationally renowned Nutritionist and Naturopath. They can help you discover exactly what it is your body needs to allow you to achieve your targets.
• PREPARE WELL
Now you have ticked off these factors and your risk level for injury is dropping; make sure you go into the game well rested and ready to compete. It would not be a great idea to have a late night on the town, no sleep and then to try to play now would it?