INJURY PREVENTION FOR WINTER SPORTS
Training key to injury prevention
It is again that time of the year when the first leaves are starting to fall - a sure sign that pre-season training for most sports is underway.
It is also the time of the year where the emphasis is on gaining basic fitness and setting goals, one of which should be to reach the end of the season in one piece.
Steps need to be taken to prevent injury, or many aspirations and dreams will again be shattered this winter. Even a minor ankle sprain can mean a major setback - for example missing out on selection - for the more serious athlete.
Not all injuries are accidental, many can be prevented and that should be a high priority.
This includes implementing appropriate training schedules.
Schedules may differ from individual to individual, even in the same team. Training programmes should always be personalised and it is the athlete that should fill in the details of the programme.
A good coach should always allow for this individual variation in training programmes. The science of training is in the set programme offered, the art is in the individual interpretation and the application of that programme.
Training errors are still the most common cause of overuse injuries and this applies especially to this time of the year, where athletes are keen to build up their fitness. Consistency and gradualness in training build-up is required.
One of the basic rules of training is to first build up to the desired level of training duration, before increasing the intensity of the sessions. Also harder sessions need to be alternated with easier ones.
You will lose little fitness by having a week off through illness or any other reason. However, any longer than that will require restart of your training programme at a lower level.
Following a phase of general conditioning the next stage will involve more specific training, to condition the body and the mind for the specific tasks ahead. It is here where individualised training becomes even more important.
Movement patterns and pace related to competition are practised during training sessions under controlled conditions.
A proper warm-up is a must for any training or competition. It takes approximately 15 minutes of controlled exercise to increase the body temperature to the desired level. The different processes within the muscle function much better at a higher temperature, with injury prevention and an improved performance as a coincidence.
A proper warm-up should start gently with a slow, but controlled increase in intensity. The warm-up always contains elements of the activity which is to follow. A warm-up for a sprinter is therefore different from that of a marathon runner or a rugby player.
Contrary to popular belief the warm-up takes just as long when the weather is warm. A cool down following training or a game will assist the gradual return of the body temperature to normal and the elimination of waste products.
Stretching exercises should always be done either following the warm-up or following the cool-down. Never do them when the muscles are cold. At best you will not achieve much of a stretch, or worse you will injure yourself.
Clothing & shoes
Good equipment is a must. Choose the right clothing for the conditions. Shorts, for example, are appropriate only if the outside temperature is 14º or more; for cycling, 17º or more; this is because of the wind-chill factor.
For team sports like rugby league, netball and soccer, Neoprene shorts, which are being worn under the conventional shorts, are appropriate to protect the thighs and groin areas in colder weather.
Good shoes especially can contribute greatly to injury prevention. In most sports there are specialised shoes available which are made for specific movements and conditions encountered in the sport.
Although you pay slightly more for specialised shoes, it is worth it in the long run as it will contribute to safety and enjoyment.
Have a happy and safe winter season.