“Injury prevention” is a term often thrown around quite a lot in the sport and fitness industry; but what does it actually mean and how do we apply it?
Well, what we really mean is reducing the probability of getting injured. Preventing injuries altogether from ever happening at all is nearly impossible, even with perfect guidance and application. We do however know how to reduce the chances of injuries happening with some simple changes in daily and training habits.
1. Include strength training – A 2013 study by Laursen et al. supports the evidence that athletes who include strength training into their weekly routine – as opposed to those who practice nonspecific training – had a greater reduction of their risk of injury. Overuse injuries almost halved and sports injuries reduced to less than one third when regular strength training was compared to stretching alone.
2. Keep your training schedule consistent - A drop in training frequency, intensity or load followed by a large spike in frequency, intensity or load have been shown to increase the risk of injury. A larger spike is normally regarded as anything over 10% of your previous weeks’ volume. This volume can be measured as kilometres, time or reps. If you want to increase your training safely, try to stay below 10% increases and do it gradually.
3. Sleep – Sleeping enough takes the crown when it comes to injury prevention. If you are to make one change and one change only, sleep should always come first. Less than 8 hours per night can be linked to an increased chance of injury in comparison to someone sleeping enough. Reduction in sleep has also been shown to reduce our ability to learn new skills, increase anxiety and hinder muscle protein synthesis.
4. Reduce stress – Often easier said than done but – if you are sleeping well and training well – hopefully, this one will not be too much of a problem. However, it’s worth noting that high amounts of stress (regular stress, sports-related stress or even stress about getting injured) can lead to a higher risk of injury. Stress can also affect our sleep and mood, so this is a vicious circle which is good to put to bed early (excuse the pun).
5. Vary and plan your training – Prepare for everyday tasks, try to avoid repetitive training, movements or body parts and plan your training in advance. Planning your training may lead to better exercise selection, more variety and prevent repetitive overload. We have all been on the commute from work to the gym deciding on what we are going to do when we get there. Having a plan and a structure will help this headache, reduce your risk of injury and probably make your session more efficient, also giving you extra time to get home and get that precious sleep.