One of the most disappointing things that can happen to an athlete is sustaining an injury in the middle of a big game. What’s worse, is that an injury can leave you benched for the majority of the season if it’s severe enough. Whether you’re a high school athlete or one of the pros, use these tips to lower your risk of injury and stay safe on the field, court, or wherever you play.
Practice Proper Nutrition
The body needs the right nutrients to perform well, and eating the right foods can help strengthen muscles and bones to prevent injury. Protein-rich foods repair muscle tissue and reduce muscle breakdown after exercise, all while supporting immune system function. Additionally, eating foods high in omega-3’s and other healthy fats reduce inflammation in the joints for easier recovery after your big game. Always make sure you’re well-hydrated before you hit the field too, your body will thank you.
Warm Up Beforehand
When we say warm-up, most people think of stretching before practice. However, stretching is actually best done after practice, once your muscles are warmed up. Before practice, perform low-intensity movements that are similar to what you’ll be doing while playing. This helps prime the body better than stretching can.
Use the Right Sports Shoes
No matter what sport you’re playing, having the right footwear is a must. If you’re someone who plays soccer, invest in a good pair of soccer-specific shoes. Choosing run-of-the-mill tennis shoes for specialized sports can actually be quite bad for your legs and ankles. The reason being is that special running shoes or football shoes are built to have the additional support, cushioning and grip for their respective sports.
Wear Compression Gear
You may have seen baseball players wearing a single colorful sleeve under their uniform or basketball players wearing high socks out on the court, and this isn’t because they’re trying to make a fashion statement. Wearing compression sports socks and sleeves help improve circulation through the limbs, making it easier for needed oxygen to reach the muscles. Compression socks provide a great amount of ankle support and reinforce the ligaments of the ankle to reduce the risk of injury. Many athletes use Kinesio taping to prevent these ankle injuries, but over time this can actually cause weak ankles. Compression gear strengthens the muscles over time and eliminates the need for ankle taping.
Give Your Body a Rest
If you’re a professional athlete, it may be hard to find the time to rest. However, resting in between workouts and games is essential for healthy recovery. Pushing your body too far and over-exerting yourself can lead to a number of leg, ankle, and wrist injuries which can leave you incapacitated for the duration of the season. During practice, it’s important to take breaks intermittently. As a rule of thumb, strive to take at least 1 rest day off per week and if possible. During this time, keep your legs elevated, ice your injuries and take good care of yourself.
Play it safe, and use the tips to keep your body game-ready, no matter what sport you play. Remember, taking precautionary steps is a lot less painful than a sprained ankle and time spent on the bench.