Injury prevention tips for the multi-directional athleteSeptember 28, 2018 | by Masumi Turnbull, Fortius Physiotherapist
Whether it’s dodging an opponent, running backwards to catch a pass or sprinting for the goal, sports like soccer, basketball, hockey and rugby, require athletes to change direction quickly, and often at high speeds. Due to the multi-directional nature of these sports, injuries are common.
Injuries also often tend to occur at transitional times of the year, such as the start of the season. Heading into the 2018 fall sports season, here are a few general training, preparedness, and recovery principles that can help multi-directional athletes prevent these injuries from occurring.
1. Improve strength & stability
Strength and conditioning builds an athlete’s capacity so they are able to handle the loads placed upon them during their sport. Training basic functional movements with proper movement strategies will transfer over to many sport-specific tasks.
For example, lunges and squats build strength and capacity in the glutes, hamstrings and quads—all needed to make a powerful cut or change of direction in multi-directional sports.
An athlete will also need to react to things happening 360º degrees around them. To prepare, they should be training in the three different planes of movement: sagittal (forward and back), frontal (side to side), and transverse (rotational).
And don’t forget about core! Core stability training is another important piece of injury prevention. A study in 2012 suggested that core stability training reduces anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury rates by up to 25% in females and 85% in males2.
2. Improve mobility
Having the necessary mobility to complete sport-specific tasks is imperative for an athlete. However, if the athlete has limited range of motion, it can also put them at risk of injury.
For example, a soccer or hockey player with tight hamstrings may be more at risk of a muscle strain when reaching for the ball or puck.
Mobility drills include stretching and self-myofascial release (SMR) techniques (foam roller, lacrosse ball, self-massage, etc.). Research has shown that regular stretching over weeks to months can reduce injury rates by 32%3. SMR techniques have been gaining popularity and are showing to have positive results4.
3. Warm-up and Recovery
A proper dynamic warm-up (going through exercises and movements that will be performed in the sport) is vital in decreasing the risk of injury. A warm-up should gradually prepare the athlete’s cardiovascular, musculoskeletal (muscles, ligaments and tendons), and nervous systems for the tasks of their sport.
Movements which activate local and global stabilizers, such as squats, lunges, jumps, and cuts, are examples of drills which can be performed during a dynamic warm-up.
An example of this type of preparation, which many soccer teams are implementing, is the FIFA 11+ warm-up. A recent study showed that it reduces the risk of injury by 30% in soccer players5. Conversely, static stretching as a warm-up has not shown to decrease overall injury rates, and may cause a decrease in power, strength and endurance6.
Static stretching may be more beneficial for recovery after activity. There is also growing research that SMR techniques aid in recovery from exercise4. Although the evidence of the physiological benefits of cold water immersion (ice baths) is mixed, the majority of studies show positive benefits, especially psychologically7. Proper nutrition and adequate sleep are also essential components of a proper recovery.
4. Monitor Training Load
Training can be divided into three phases: preparation, pre-competition (preseason), and competition (season). The risk of an athlete sustaining an injury is greater during the transitional periods between these phases8.
For example, since high school basketball players are in their preseason, they should start to ramp up their training now before their season starts at the end of November.
Athletes should also ensure they have adequate recovery time between phases. A few weeks rest at the end of a competition phase is important to allow an athlete to fully recover from the physical and mental demands of a season.
5. Get screened by a healthcare professional
A comprehensive assessment by a health professional can be very beneficial to staying healthy and injury-free through your season.
Whether it’s gaining awareness of proper movement strategies, learning how to train core stability, or guidance through warm-up and recovery strategies, the practitioners at Fortius can help you on your journey.
1. Kibler W.B., Press J., Sciasscia A. The role of core stability in athletic function. Sports Medicine. 2006; 36(3): 189-198.
2. Sadoghi P, von Keudell A, Vavken P. Effectiveness of anterior cruciate ligament injury prevention training programs. J Bone Joint Surg Am 2012;94:769-776
3. Shrier I. Meta-analysis on preexercise stretching. Med Sci Sports Exerc 2004;36(10):1832
4. Schroeder A. Is Self Myofascial Release an Effective Preexercise and Recovery strategy? A literature review. Current Sports Medicine Reports 2015;14(3):200-208
5. Sadigursky D et al. The FIFA 11+ injury prevention program for soccer players: a systematic review. BMC Sports Science, Medicine, and Rehabilitation 2017;9:18
6. Shrier I. Does stretching improve performance? A systematic and critical review of the literature. Clin J Sport Med 2004;14(5):267-73.
7. Bleakley CM, Davison GW. What is the biochemical and physiological rationale for using cold-water immersion in sports recovery? A systematic review. Br J Sports Med 2010;44:179-87
8. Brukner, Peter. Brukner and Khan’s Clinical Sports Medicine. 4th Ed. Australia: McGraw-Hill Education, 2007.