Why so many recreational athletes get injured
There are many ways to injure yourself playing the sport you love. And injuries as well as being painful can take an emotional toll on you, especially if you are passionate about your sport.
However, there are two broad categories that injuries fall into; chronic or acute.
Acute injuries are sudden injuries that often come after a collision or fall. They often lead to broken bones and torn ligaments.
Chronic injuries develop over a longer period of time and are often due to overuse. Although often less severe than acute injuries, they can take a long time to rehabilitate from.
Benefits of a proper warm-up
Although a warm-up can have some benefit in helping to avoid acute injuries, it’s main purpose is to reduce the number of chronic injuries you have to endure as a social athlete.
As the name would suggest, the ‘warm-up’ is designed to raise your body temperature. That’s because a number of beneficial physiological changes happen when your core temperature is raised.
One of the key things that will happen is that blood flow will increase through active tissues. As you may be aware, many chronic injury issues are ‘soft-tissue’ injuries. Increasing blood flow prior to more vigorous exercise is, therefore, a critical preventative measure.
When the body has been properly warmed up, then haemoglobin releases oxygen more efficiently. This is important because it allows you to take advantage of aerobic pathways as your exercise becomes more intense.
This means that you are better able to reserve your vital fuel stores for those moments when the challenge of the activity get tougher. And working more efficiently helps you to avoid those injuries that can happen when you lose coordination as a result of fatigue.
In fact, the physiological benefits of a proper warm-up are vast. Other changes include an increase in the speed in which the muscles contract and relax, an improved ability of nerves to send signals to the muscles, and greater economy of movement.
What should the warm-up include to avoid injuries?
There are many things a good warm-up could involve, but there are 3 important components that all good warm-ups MUST involve.
Firstly, you must raise the body temperature through aerobic activity. The raising of your body temperature should be gradual and progressive.
Try and make the aerobic warm-up relevant to the task ahead. I have seen rugby players warm up on a bike before going to play the game. This seems counter-intuitive. Rugby players run around the field (they don’t cycle). A jog would seem a more appropriate warm up than a stationary bike!
Secondly, you should incorporate stretching into your warm up. Dynamic stretching is preferred to static stretching as it is far more beneficial for reducing muscle stiffness. It has the added bonus of warming up your joints too.
And lastly, make sure you rehearse movements that are specific to your sport. These movements should mimic the activity that will follow.
For example, a tennis player should do a gentler and slower version of their service without hitting the ball. This will prepare the body mentally and physically for the full speed version.