Prevention and Protection before Participation

Whether you’re participating in recreational sports or preparing for a competition, being active can be stressful on your body. Know your risks of sports injuries and how to prevent them before you get out onto the field, gym, or pathway.

Some of the most common risk factors for sports injuries involve limited skill and ability, poor balance and pre-existing injuries. Other factors include poor balance, dysfunctional biomechanics and doing too much, too soon. This can lead to potentially devastating injuries along your spine, back and neck; shoulder, hip and pelvis; your knees, wrists, hands, ankles; and your muscles, ligaments, tendons, cartilage, nerves or vascular structure.

common injury risk factors

Prevention, Protection & Training

So how can you best protect yourself? Taking it slow and steady is very important. Try gradually increasing the time and intensity of your activity by about 10 per cent per 1-2 weeks. Incorporating a variety of activities at the same time will prevent repetitive strain and boredom.

As you increase the intensity, listen to your body and don’t ignore any pain. The importance of a pre-workout warm-up and stretching cannot be overstated; stretching should also follow every workout.

Your body is the most important piece of equipment you own, so you need to be mindful when preparing to exercise. Conditioning should not be attempted until after lingering injuries are dealt with – or your kinesiologist or physiotherapist has provided you with modified methods.

If you are new to exercise – or restarting after a break – begin with cardiovascular exercise, then add basic strength training gradually. Perform any exercises or stretches that correct movement dysfunction that has been identified by a therapist. Once you are in good cardiovascular condition, maintain it while also adding strength and flexibility to your routine.


Begin with 30 -60 minutes of cardiovascular training 3-5 times per week to reduce fatigue prior to anaerobic training. Add in anaerobic (interval) training to increase endurance:

  • 30 seconds to 3 minutes of harder training, then equal rest, repeated 4-5 times (i.e. jump rope, squats, push-ups, etc.)
  • Do 1-2 days anaerobic & 2-3 aerobic for 1-2 months


Progress to strength training of your legs, hips (buttocks & abductors), back & pelvis (core), shoulders & chest 2 – 3 times per week. Training can be done using free weights or machines (when available).Core strength is especially important for building a solid foundation for your body.


Mobility is essential to being active and doing sports and is often more important than performance & skill. Flexibility work (especially the lower body & torso) should be done after a warm-up, holding for 30 seconds to 2 minutes.


Balance and agility work should be added to improve muscular control and coordination, which in turn will reduce falls and build confidence in your activities. Challenge yourself safely by reducing the base of support (single leg), use unstable surfaces or closing your eyes

Injury Management

If you do happen to become injured:

  • Implement the ‘RICE’ method (Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation) for the first 5-7 days after injury
  • Be assessed by a physiotherapist or doctor
  • Make sure you’re fully healed before resuming exercise. Re-injury will delay recovery.
  • Don’t assume no pain means you can return to the sport/activity. Conditioning needs to occur!

If you are unsure of your personal injury risk, you can book a Functional Movement Screen (FMS) with your kinesiologist or physiotherapist. Designed as a screening tool, the FMS consists of seven tests, grading movement quality to create a functional baseline and set realistic goals. The FMS identifies dangerous movement patterns, helping to determine risk for future injury and readiness for activity.

For more information regarding your specific needs or if you would like a personal assessment, please contact the Copeman Healthcare Centre to book an appointment with one of our physiotherapists or kinesiologists. Your Copeman Healthcare Physiotherapist can identify problems in strength and flexibility, and assess biomechanics, functional movement, range of motion and stability. If you are injured or suffering from pain, your physiotherapist will identify the contributing areas and set up a personalized treatment plan, including therapeutic exercises to correct impairment or dysfunction.