Most of us begin our athletic endeavors without much thought of injury prevention. We go about whatever sport we choose with minimal preparation and no specific plan. As a result, many athletes find themselves injured on a regular basis. Having a plan with pre- and post-activity injury prevention measures is the key.
First and foremost, every athlete should have a standard examination by a physician and obtain proper medical clearance before beginning any cardiovascular activity. After that, going through a Functional Movement Screen is the next most important thing to do. The Functional Movement Screen consists of a series of tests that pinpoint poor movement patterns. By looking at movement patterns, and not just one muscle group or joint, weak links can be identified. Once a weak pattern is identified by the Functional Movement Screen, corrective exercises can be prescribed to alleviate the imbalance or weak movement patterns. Pre-existent poor movement patterns are often the underlying cause of a specific symptom or performance problem, since they cause the body to compensate and possibly become injured.
Proper movement preparation is very important for assuring that the muscles, ligaments and tendons in your body are ready for dynamic motion. All forms of exercise involve movement, and preparing for it is essential so that all of your body’s muscles are warmed up and firing. There are neuromuscular connections which need to be turned on properly, and there are specific movement preparatory exercises that should be done for running, biking, swimming, strength and conditioning. Generally, five to 10 min. should be all that is needed. Spending this time on a regular basis will certainly prevent injury.
Training in the proper heart rate zone will also increase the chances of minimizing injury. Many athletes unknowingly increase their injury risk by training at too high of an intensity on a regularly basis. Consulting a health professional and/or taking a VO2 test, which monitors your oxygen use, is the best way to ascertain your heart rate zones. By knowing your heart rate zones, which are determined by a percentage of your own ventillary threshold, you can have a plan of base training, building, peaking and active recovery. A training plan that includes proper aerobic training and recovery is essential for injury prevention.
Active recovery and regeneration are very important in allowing your body to heal itself and avoid injury. It is important to plan time in your training schedule for recovery, which means workouts of less intensity and duration. Incorporating a weekly rest day into your schedule is of paramount importance. Workouts put repetitive stress on the body, and its ability to adapt to that stress leads to improvement. Proper rest and recovery allows the body to adapt properly. Regeneration is equally important. For instance, yoga, other proper rehabilitative stretches, massages and ball rolling are excellent options. Time spent each week resting and rehabilitating will pay back tenfold.
A proper diet is essential for your body during training. Having a diet with the proper proportions of protein, carbohydrates and fats is important. Understanding your individual nutritional needs is necessary to assuring good performance and injury prevention. Also, knowing if your metabolism is slow or fast can help you dial in your caloric needs. Finally, eating the right amount of meals a day and proper hydration will help your body perform and heal better, and most importantly, avoid injury.