As many Bristolians will no doubt be making New Year’s Resolutions this month to get fit and be more active, Nuffield Health Bristol Hospital, The Chesterfield offers some advice on how to prevent sports-related injuries.

In the last two decades, more and more people of all ages have started to realise that the key to a long and healthy life is, quite simply, exercise. While this can offer considerable benefits to our health, for some there may be a price to pay; an injury related to their chosen sporting activity.

There are two kinds of sports injuries: acute and chronic. Acute injuries occur suddenly when playing or exercising. Sprained ankles, twisted knees, and various fractures are acute injuries. Chronic injuries tend to happen after you exercise for a long time. These are often overuse injuries and include most painful tendon conditions, but also stress fractures.

What’s so special about sports injuries?

Of course there are injuries that are very specific to certain sports. A good example is a small stress fracture that occurs in the lower back of fast bowlers in cricket. However, in general there is nothing particularly special about sports injuries compared to those that occur outside the sporting environment. In the vast majority of cases, the damage that occurs is exactly the same, and quite often the treatment will also be the same. There may be circumstances where treatment would be different in high level athletes, but your surgeon or physician will apply the same principles when he or she considers what type of treatment will be most appropriate.

Is there anything people can do to prevent sports injuries?

• Choose a sport that is right for you. Be realistic about your body shape, your strength, and how flexible you are.
• Always warm up before you play any sport.
• Learn how to do your sport the correct way, get some lessons, especially in the more technically challenging sports such as swimming and tennis.
• Use safety gear where appropriate.
• Make sure you have the appropriate equipment for your sport. The wrong racket can contribute to you developing tennis elbow. Inappropriate shoes can contribute to painful conditions such as plantar fasciitis, shin splints, and other overuse tendon problems.

If you are participating in sports that involve a lot of landing from a jump or a lot of pivoting movements such as netball and hockey, it may be worthwhile seeing a physiotherapist who can teach you the correct landing techniques. This will minimise the risk of serious knee injuries such as patellar dislocations, and anterior cruciate ligament ruptures. This is especially important in young female athletes, who have a high incidence of serious knee injuries, often up to five times higher than their male counterparts.

Also, avoid excessive hill running (both up AND down) as this tends to significantly overload the front of the knee.

Know your limits

Build up your exercise tolerance levels gradually. This will not only make it less likely that you will get injured, but also make it much more enjoyable. There is not much joy in exhausting yourself in your first ever session, only to find that you have to take two weeks off to recover.

If you have a medical condition that may interfere with certain sporting activities, talk to your GP, your physiotherapist, or your consultant.

Nuffield Health is the UK’s largest not-for-profit healthcare provider, and its core aim is to make the nation healthier. For more information about the full range of services available at Nuffield Health Bristol Hospital, The Chesterfield, including physiotherapy and treatments for sports-related injuries, call us on 0117 911 5339 or visit our website: nuffieldhealth.com

Nuffield Health Bristol Hospital The Chesterfield, 3 Clifton Hill, Clifton, Bristol BS8 1BN