Australia is a country known for many things: beautiful beaches, Sunday barbecues, plenty of sunshine and, of course, a proud and passionate sporting culture. A recent survey by Sport Australia found 89% of Australian adults participate in sport each year and 62% participate at least three times a week. There are many positive benefits that Sports and exercise, but it is also a fact that they come with an increased likelyhood of physical injury. The 10 most common sporting/excercise related injuries are;
- Anterior cruciate ligament(ACL) tears
- Ankle sprains
- Fractures caused by overuse (like from playing tennis)
- Fractures caused by impact trauma (such as from playing rugby league)
- Plantar fasciitis, which is damage to the tissues that connect the toes to the heel bone
- Pulled groin muscles
- Shin splints, commonly experienced by runners
- Strained muscles, such as a strained hamstring
Data from the AIHW (Australian Institute of health and Welfare) showed that head injuries accounted for over 15% of all hospitalised sport-related cases, wrist injuries for over 11%, knee injuries for over 11%, shoulder injuries for over 6% and ankle for over 5%.
How can you help prevent sports-related injuries?
Anyone playing sports, whether an adult or a child, can do a number of things to reduce their risk of injury. According to the Better Health Channel, wearing protective gear can be an effective preventative step to avoid injuries. This can include equipment such as helmets, eye protection, mouthguards, elbow pads, wrist/knee guards and, for males, protective “boxes”. It is a good idea to select gear that has been designed for the particular sport you intend on playing and is the right size for you. Better Health Channel also suggests warming up thoroughly “by gently going through the motions of your sport and performing slow, sustained stretches”. myDr.com.au says an effective warm up involves doing movements that increase your heart rate, breathing and temperature of your muscles, usually until you reach a light sweat (generally 5-10 minutes). By performing movements you will likely undergo when playing the sport, you gradually adjust your heart rate and muscle mobility, which can reduce your risk of injury. Even something as simple as drinking enough water can also lessen the risk of injury, suggests Fitness Australia, the national health and fitness industry association. In a fact sheet the peak body helped put together, it suggests that staying hydrated during physical activity is important, as it allows your body to deliver oxygen more effectively to your muscles and can minimise your risk of injury due to low concentration or fatigue.
If someone is injured playing sport, what can you do about it?
When someone is injured playing sport, there are a number of steps that are commonly taken in order to treat the injury.
Your first move usually depends on the type of injury involved. If you believe based on the injured person’s feedback that there may be a suspected fracture or a head injury, it’s usually best to visit the hospital immediately, as most fractures are diagnosed by X-ray and a small group of people who sustain a concussion (5% according to BrainLine) can develop bleeding or a blood clot. Even if you don’t believe the injury to be a fracture, it can be a good idea to speak with a doctor to determine whether the injury will require medical attention.
For common, acute injuries such as muscle strains or sprains, a general rule of thumb to treat them is to follow the principles of RICER:
R. Rest the Injured area. Avoid exercise or activities that involve the injured area.
I: Ice the Injured Area to help decrease swelling/in and pain.
C: Compression: wrap the injured area to provide support and decrease swelling.
E: Elevate or raise the injured body part above the heart when resting
R: Referral. Have the injury checked by your GP. In an emergency, call 000.
- No Heat – heat will increase bleeding.
- No Alcohol – alcohol increases bleeding and swelling.
- No Running – running or exercise increases blood flow, delaying healing.
- No Massage – massage increases swelling and bleeding, also delaying healing.
If you are rehabilitating after an injury, you might consider visiting a physiotherapist, exercise physiologist or other specialist. Your GP might make a recommendation or you can contact a specialist and ask if they can assist with your particular injury. Some services, such as appointments with a physiotherapist, are covered by rebates in some health insurance extras policies. If you have a private health insurance policy with extras cover, check your coverage to see if it covers claims like physiotherapy, which can potentially be effective in rehabilitation following some minor injuries.
Sports Medicine Australia have injury fact sheets on the following here;