The old saying, "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure," still holds true when it comes to injury prevention.
Insurance companies are taking the concept even further by offering incentives to people who are willing to participate in health and wellness activities. When it comes to sports injury prevention, a little effort can help you avoid time away from a sport or everyday activities you enjoy.
There are three main components to an injury prevention program: strength, flexibility and cardiovascular fitness. These components interrelate; focusing on one and not the others potentially can lead to injury. Committing to work on all three components can help you avoid injury and, in most cases, can make you more successful in a sport or activity.
Strength training is a must for individuals interested in participating in a particular sport or activity. The following are examples of how strength can impact activity. For a high-school pitcher, core (hips and torso) and rotator cuff strength can decrease the risk of shoulder and elbow injuries.
For the middle-aged golfer, studies show that core and shoulder strength impacts driving distance and decreases risk of injury. For a swimmer, rotator cuff strength can help avoid chronic shoulder pain.
Each of these activities places different demands on the body. In order to meet the demands, a sport/activity-specific strengthening program must be developed.
Flexibility often is overlooked. Decreased flexibility can negatively affect an individual's mechanics, causing a chain reaction leading to an injury. Our bodies are made to handle the stress of certain motions and, if there is a change in those motions, the body may not be able to handle that stress.
One example of flexibility is dynamic flexibility that consists of exercises that use sport-specific movements to prepare the whole body for the demands of a specific activity. Instead of stretching just one muscle, dynamic flexibility exercises incorporate the entire body. The movements are easy to use as part of a warm-up before playing.
With dynamic flexibility, there are no bounces or rough movements. Instead, it consists of controlled leg and arm swings that take you to the limits of your range of motion.
Cardiovascular fitness is good for your health and also plays a role in decreasing the risk of injury. When you get tired during activities, your body movements change, which increases your potential for injury.
A runner who tires during a run can change his or her running motion ever so slightly and cause knee, foot, shin or back injury. A throwing athlete who tires can alter his mechanics and cause elbow, shoulder or back pain.
Studies show that most injuries occur late in the game and are viewed as fatigue-related injuries.
Improving your cardiovascular fitness helps you have a healthier body, while also developing a higher resistance to fatigue-related injury.
Remember to incorporate strength, flexibility and cardiovascular fitness activities into your lifestyle. Injury prevention will give you the best chance for enjoying an injury and pain free and successful sports season.
Kinley, the coordinator of Susquehanna Health Sports Medicine, may be reached at 800-321-2946. For more information about sports medicine-related injuries, call 320-7456.