Many of my patients enjoy participating in different sports, ranging from a hobby of gentle walking to top-class professional athletes whose livelihood depends on peak sports performance. Whatever your own personal level of sports participation, there are three keys to maximising performance and avoiding pain.
Warm up and cool down
Sports injuries are common and one of the most common causes is through not warming up beforehand or not cooling down afterwards. While you might prefer to simply kit up and launch yourself onto the soccer field, this can give your body quite a shock, causing cold muscles to suddenly stretch and increasing the chances of strains and other injuries.
A warm-up session should include muscle stretching and light cardiovascular exercise. Its goal is to warm and stretch your muscles so that they are better equipped to take the impact they are about to be given and to increase circulation and loosen joints. Ideally you should take at least 20 minutes to prepare your body for sport by warming up.
If you are taking part in a sport that is more static (eg cricket) then you should maintain body temperature and muscle elasticity by gentle exercise and stretching when you can during the game.
Cooling-down is also important and is often overlooked. The cool-down process adjusts your body back from high activity to low activity in a gradual way. By cooling-down instead of simply stopping, your heart rate and blood pressure reduces in a more gradual way, reducing the chances of fainting or dizziness. Cool-downs also help to remove the build-up of lactic acid in your muscles after their vigorous activity. Stretching during a cool-down can also help improve flexibility. You do not need to spend a long time cooling down, 5 to 10 minutes is normally enough depending on how vigorous the sport was.
It’s very tempting to hurl yourself across the court to make that winning shot or kick with tremendous enthusiasm in the hope that the ball will be too fast for the goalie to stop but this can lead to problems. Stretching our bodies beyond what they can cope with can lead to a variety of different problems.
And, no, it is not an age-related problem. It is certainly true that a less-young golfer might twist over-enthusiastically to encourage the ball just a little closer to the hole but younger people are just as vulnerable to problems. Their growing bodies are often expected to perform to very high standards and they can be putting exceptional demands on their bodies that they are simply not able to cope with. Over-enthusiasm affects everyone when they step outside of their limitations.
Incorrect or ill-fitting equipment also causes problems. Badly fitting footwear can cause foot, knee and hip problems. Don’t forget that footwear that is a little old may no longer be giving you the correct fit so avoid wearing your running shoes until they fall off!
Ill-fitting protective equipment or not wearing protective equipment such as shin pads, head protectors, etc may not be a direct cause of injury but it can expose you to a greater chance of injury.
The good news
Although sports injuries are common, the good news is that the fitter you are, the faster and better you will recover. Therefore, it is valuable to keep doing the sport to maintain your fitness, even putting aside the pleasure that most of us get from participating in a sport.
How London Osteopath, Robin Kiashek can help
As well as treating sports injuries, osteopathy can also help improve sports performance by restoring structural balance, improving joint mobility and reducing adhesions and soft tissue restrictions. For instance, a golfer’s swing may be able to be helped by improving the body’s ability to move. This may also have the added benefit of reducing the likelihood of injury.
If you want to keep fit then osteopathy can help to improve your muscle tone and keep you supple. This will reduce the risk of injury and help the body recover quicker from any injury.
Robin Kiashek offers more than osteopathy from both his central and north London clinics. His allied therapies can better support you to achieve even higher sports performance or faster and better recovery from a sports injury.