The biggest game of the Six Nations tournament is set for this weekend, the Wales -v- England battle. While the team have a strong squad, Wales is lamenting the loss of big player Leigh Halfpenny from this key match due to concussion, although this game marks a welcome return for previously injured player Scott Williams.
Most athletes, whether Rugby, Football or Track work hard to prevent sports injuries – we wonder if there is anything that can be done to prevent them. We spoke to Rhian Davies, Clinical Director and sports rehabilitation physiotherapist at one2one Therapy in Bridgend.
At one 2 one, we work hard with our sponsored athletes to keep them injury free – injuries at the wrong time can be career destroying. Our professional athletes are always careful to avoid injury, making sure their bodies are in tune inside and out – and as you’d expect, taking full advantage of the facilities here at one 2 one.
Top Rugby players undoubtedly do the same, but injuries like concussion and contact injuries are hard to avoid in a very physical sport like rugby. However, the casualty rate for general musculoskeletal injuries among professional sportsmen is surprisingly low because they work hard to prevent them.
We do treat professional athletes at one2one, however it isn’t their injuries that fill our sports injury clinic. We see sports injuries among all age groups from children to the elderly with varying levels of ability, and most of these injuries could have been avoided.
Rhian explains that often sports injuries are caused by:
- An inadequate warm up prior to exercise
- Using the wrong equipment
- An accident – such as a fall or heavy blow
- Pushing yourself too hard
- Poor technique/biomechanics
- A lack of flexibility in muscles and joints
- Muscle weakness/ poor core stability
Sports injuries can occur in any part of the body, the most common being the knees and ankles. Bones, joints, muscles, ligaments and tendons are all affected. So if you are out of practice, should you avoid exercise for now?
Rhian says definitely not:
“Unless you have a serious medical condition which affects your ability to exercise, the benefits far outweigh the risk of injury. Rather than avoiding exercise, we recommend taking steps to minimize the risk of injury– so even if you haven’t exercised in some time, start off very gently – but start! Follow our tips and don’t just ‘go for the burn’, get going at your own pace and you will gradually find your fitness improves.”
Here are Rhian’s top tips for exercising without injury:
- Always warm up and cool down properly. A warm up should consist of 5-10 mins of dynamic movement involving your whole body. A cool down should last a minimum of 5 mins and include sustained stretches of all major muscle groups.
- Use the right equipment e.g. shin pads for football, a gum shield for rugby, the most suitable running footwear for your foot type whilst running. If you’re unsure about which trainers are best for you and your sport, speak with your podiatrist.
- Don’t push yourself beyond your current fitness level. Try not to be influenced by others around you, do your own thing.
- Try not to exercise when you’re fatigued. Rest is equally as important in your training regime as training itself. This is when your body repairs itself and strengthens muscles.
- Work on your technique to make you more efficient and less likely to injure yourself. Biomechanical assessments and screening can identify areas of weakness and stiffness in the body that maybe contributing to your poor technique. This screening can be carried out by a physiotherapist or a podiatrist. Here at one2one, we offer our clients advanced biomechanical screening which involves a combined assessment with both a physiotherapist and a podiatrist using the latest technology.
- Keep your muscles and joints flexible. You can do this through a proper cool down, a regular stretching programme or maybe attending a yoga class. Regular sports massage also helps to keep the muscles flexible.
- Make sure your training programme includes a strength and conditioning session. Key areas can be targeted to ensure you have adequate strength in the muscles put under strain during your sport. If you’re unsure of what exercises to do or how to do them, speak with your physiotherapist or personal trainer.
- Listen to your body. If something doesn’t feel right or you start to feel pain when exercising, stop!
Our hearts go out to Leigh Halfpenny who will, like the rest of us, be watching every game and cheering loudly for a Wales win.
Rhian assures us that professional athletes are made of tough stuff and we will hopefully see Leigh back on the field soon.
Til then, like most of Wales, we’ll be cheering for his teammates this weekend!
Image credit: Talking Rugby Union