As fall sports season gets underway, urgent care centers, hospital emergency departments, and physician offices see an increase in athletes coming in with injuries. More than 35 million young athletes participate in sports in the United States. Unfortunately, 3.5 million sports injuries occur each year. Common sports injuries are ACL tears, concussions, muscular strains, ligament sprains in the knees or ankles, and overuse injuries such as tendonitis or patellar femoral pain. Regardless of whether you are a competitive athlete, or an adult trying to stay fit, a simple dynamic warm up program will help you stay fit and injury free.
Many of the injuries sustained are contact related and not preventable. However, many injuries are non-contact related, meaning that the injury occurs without contact with another athlete or an object on the field. In addition, many injuries are overuse related. Injury prevention programs have been proven to decrease risk of ACL tear by training specific movement patterns. Improving flexibility of the hip and knee musculature, strengthening (particularly of the hip abductors, quads, and core), balance and agility, and, most importantly, good single leg control and landing strategies are key elements of a comprehensive program. Don’t wait until the season starts! Get in shape to play to avoid injury risk and to enjoy your fall season. ACL injury research has shown prevention programs may decrease ACL injuries from 35 to 74 percent.
How do you get started? First, there are many good programs readily available online such as the Santa Monica Sports Medicine Foundation PEP program and FIFA 11+. These programs are easy to follow and typically take 20 minutes to administer.
If you are concerned about your risk for injury you may want to consider consulting a physical therapist. There are many functional assessment tools that therapists use to determine risk factor for ACL injury such as 10-second-tuck assessment, hop tests, and sport-specific functional testing, among others. Even professional athletes have weakness or limitations with some of these testing movements.
The first rule of injury prevention is to always do warm up exercises before embarking on your main activity or sport. A physical therapist can also give you agility training exercises to help strengthen joints.
When practicing, the quality of the movement patterns should be emphasized, not the quantity. Rest days are also important! Alternating hard and easy training days along with rest days is important to prevent overuse injuries.
And while preventive measures can help reduce injuries, exercise is not without risk. If at any time during your workout you feel pain or experience physical discomfort you should stop and consult a medical professional. If you have other health issues, you should consult your physician before initiating any exercise program.
Courtney Budd, Physical Therapist
Cooper Bone and Joint Institute
Cooper University Health Care