Reducing the risk of injury coming into the New Year by Rachel Keane
Reducing the risk of injury coming into the new year
Whether you are an athlete returning to play after the off season or if you are looking to get back
into exercise after an extended break, January is a common time of year for people to get back to
their sport/ exercise of choice. After the Christmas break, people tend to have lots of motivation and
are eager to do lots.
However, this burst of motivation and high hopes for the new year can lead to people doing too
much too soon and this spike in load can result in injury.
So, what can we do to help reduce the risk of injury coming into the new year?
1. Make a plan
Aim to take it one step at a time. If you have not exercised in the last 6 months and your goal is to run a 5k, going out and running a 5k straight away may not be the best way to get back into running. Everyone is different so there is no point in saying everyone
should start with a 2km jog and build it up by a km each time as this may be perfect for one person, but not work for the next.
The most important thing to do is to listen to your own body.
My advice would be to start off where you almost feel as if it is too easy and become consistent first. When you
have consistently got out for a run for 2-3 weeks then I would start to build things up
As things progress, I would focus on the distance one day, recover well and focus on the speed the next day.
If you’re starting back into GAA and you are expected to train 6 days a week between hurling/camogie and Gaelic, you are best start back slowly and gradually build up the training load rather than trying to do 5-6 days in a row if you have not been training over the winter period.
2. Warm up properly
What is the purpose of a warm up?
– To raise body temperature
– Increase blood flow to muscles
– Prepare for the physical demands of the sport/ exercise
– Mentally prepare for the sport
– To develop specific sports related skills/ drills
Which all in turn will decrease the risk of injury.
How do I structure a warm up?
The best way to structure your warm up is based on ‘RAMP’ protocol by Dr. Ian Jefferys.
This involves 4 steps:
- Raise body temperature and heart rate
This can be done by any aerobic activity. This could involve a jog, going on an exercise bike, skipping
- Activate and Mobilise
Muscles and joints that you will be using when taking part your exercise of choice. You may
have specific weakness, which is individual to each person that you might want to focus on
specifically. A physio can determine and make this specific to you.
If to are looking to perform at a high level, it is often recommended to perform dynamic
stretches over static stretches in the warm up. There is some evidence to show that static
stretching can put the muscle into an almost ‘too relaxed’ state and may temporarily reduce
the force produced by the muscle.
At this point of the warm up, you want to reach the same intensity as you would during the exercise
you will take part in e.g., if you are doing a 100m sprint, you would do some strides at 100%. For
GAA players, this is where you may do your higher intensity drills.
3. Cool down after your workout
Why is a cool down important?
A cool down helps the body return to its normal state i.e., gradually reduce heart rate to
a normal rate once again, it helps flush out waste products such as lactate that build up
during exercise and allows the muscles to relax.
A suggested cool down maybe a gentle jog and some static stretches. At this stage, static
stretches can be really beneficial to allow the muscles to completely relax and start to
4. Focus on recovering from one session to the next
After we have exercised there are other important factors, we should consider in order
to aid recovery, these include:
It is advised that adults get at least 8 hours sleep each night. Some studies have shown
that athletes who get less than 8 hours sleep per night are at a higher risk of injury than
those who get 8 hours sleep each night.
It is the deep phase (NREM stage 3) of sleep that muscle recovery takes place, if you are
not getting sufficient deep sleep, your muscles will not recover as quickly.
-Nutrition and hydration
Your body loses fluids when you exercise so it is important to replace those fluids afterexercise. This can include drinking water or some athletes like to drink an electrolyte
drink especially when they have been sweating a lot.
It is also important that you ensure you are getting adequate amounts of carbohydrates,
protein and fats after exercise. When you exercise, your body uses up its fuel – carbs and
fats so it is important to restore these to recover effectively. As well this, protein is
important as it helps repair muscle and recover post exercise.
When we push our muscles more than we would have previously or in recent times, it is
common to develop delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). This may develop 24-48 hours after a
workout. Foam rolling and stretching may help reduce this. Other recovery methods include a deep
tissue massage, cryotherapy- sea swims/ cold water immersion, contrast therapy (hot to cold
showers) or compression boots/ compressing sore muscles to help increase blood flow and decrease
inflammation in between sessions.
By Rachel Keane