Physiotherapy – Exercise and Sports Injuries

Participation in regular exercise and sport is a vital part of the Australian lifestyle. It promotes good health, relaxation and provides social contact. The downside is that it is a common source of musculoskeletal injuries. The good news however, is that most of these injuries can be prevented.

How can you prevent injuries?

  • Begin slowly after any break from regular exercise or sport. Most of us remember our peak fitness level and expect to perform at that level, which places undue stress on our body. Be realistic; don’t expect to play one hour of squash after 6 months of a sedentary lifestyle.
  • Have correct equipment, e.g. Shoes, bike, set up correctly
  • More isn’t necessarily better.
  • Correct warm-up and cool down exercises.
  • Regular stretching specific to the needs of the activity.
  • Graduated exercise program that is tailored to your current fitness level.
  • Don’t play on with pain.

If you do have an injury:

Seek immediate assessment and treatment, especially if you wish to continue exercising as you may be causing further damage.

For sprains, strains and bruises start the R.I.C.E.R. program.

R: Rest: to allow the injured tissue to heal and to prevent any further damage.

I: Ice: 10-15 mins hourly. Be careful to place a damp cloth between the skin and the ice to prevent an ice burn.

C: Compression: a moderately firm elastic bandage will control swelling.

E: Elevation: elevate the injured part to facilitate drainage and reduce swelling.

R: Referral: to doctor or physio if pain does not settle within 24-48 hours.

And avoid:

H: Heat in the first 72 hours increases bleeding.

A: Alcohol increases blood flow/swelling.

R: Running/exercise too soon will cause further damage.

M: Massage in the first 24 hours increases swelling and bleeding.

Warm up

Consists of at least 10 minutes of continuous activity using large muscle groups to redistribute blood flow to where it is most needed. In the case of a runner or cyclist we mostly want to warm up the legs and this may be done by a gentle jog, running on the spot, squats or step-ups. For swimmers a routine with arms which could include swinging and pushups would be appropriate. However you choose to warm up you should have built up a light sweat before you commence some gentle stretching. Stretching decreases the risk of injury and keeps the muscles healthy. Don’t forget to stretch well after the run.

Stretching should be done slowly without bouncing. Stretch to where you feel a slight easy stretch. Hold this feeling for 5-30 seconds. As you hold this stretch, the feeling of tension should diminish, if it doesn’t, just ease off slightly into a more comfortable stretch. The easy stretch reduces tension and prepares the tissues for the developmental stretch.

After holding the easy stretch, move a fraction farther into the stretch until you feel mild tension again. This is the developmental stretch, which should be held for 5-30 seconds. This feeling of stretch tension should also slightly diminish or stay the same. If the tension increases or becomes painful, you are over-stretching. Ease off a bit to a comfortable stretch. The developmental stretch reduces tension and will safely increase flexibility.

Hold only stretch tensions that feel good to you. The key to stretching is to be relaxed while you concentrate on the area being stretched. Your breathing should be slow, deep and rhythmical. Don’t worry about how far you can stretch; stretch relaxed and limberness will become just one of the many by-products of regular stretching.

Note: If you have had any recent surgery, muscle or joint problems, please contact your personal health care professional before starting a stretching or exercise program.