No one wants to get injured when playing their sport, so what can you do to prevent injury? Here are a few tips!
- Eat Enough
Eating enough is arguably the most important measure of injury prevention. Ensuring that you are consuming enough calories to meet daily energy requirements is essential. Without adequate caloric intake, you are underfueling your body, and it is extremely hard to make any athletic improvements without sufficient nutrient delivery to muscles. With a calorie deficit, muscle mass will decrease and if high intensity training continues, the risk for stress reactions and/or stress fractures increases also.
- Enjoy the sun
When you aren’t eating a varied diet, nutrient deficiencies occur. One of the most damaging deficiencies is vitamin D because of its role in bone metabolism which is directly linked to muscle and therefore, strength. You can get vitamin D from foods such as eggs and salmon, but you can also get plenty from enjoying some time in the sun. Fun fact: calcium, highly concentrated in dairy products, is also essential for optimal bone and health and by pairing calcium-rich foods with foods containing vitamin D, the body’s absorption of vitamin D increases! So, in these hot summer months, enjoy your next ice cream cone (dairy = calcium) outside (sun = vitamin D) to maximize absorption of both nutrients, cool off a bit, and prevent injury!
- Get Enough Sleep
Multiple studies have concluded that sleeping less than 6 hours a night drastically increases an athlete’s risk for injury. Decreased sleep is linked to both decreased reaction times and immune function as well as increased production of stress hormones. When these effects are all combined due to lack of sleep, risk for injury drastically increases. For athletes, 8-10 hours of rest is ideal to best recover from training in order to decrease injury risks. If you have trouble sleeping, eating foods rich in magnesium, such as almonds or spinach can be a natural approach to sleep improvement!
- Don’t Fear Fats
Although fat is sometimes thought to have adverse effects on an athlete’s body composition, it is critical in injury prevention. While at rest and during low-moderate intensity or endurance sports such as running, cycling, or walking, the body prioritizes the breakdown of fat to fuel performance. So, avoiding fat will increase risk for injury and can inhibit performance improvements since adequate amounts of energy from fat will not be accessible. Additionally, cell membranes are primarily made up of fat. Having healthy, intact cell membranes greatly decreases risk for injury because healthy cells have better reaction times and greater efficiency at sending and receiving signals within the body.
Stretching before and after exercise is extremely important for injury prevention. Stretching before a workout helps to loosen up muscles and prevent injury during exercise. However, researchers caution against getting “too-loose” prior to a workout and suggest trying dynamic stretches before workouts to best protect yourself from injury. For example, do some walking lunges before starting jumping lunges. Save deep stretching for after a workout to allow for the release of the lactic acid that builds up during your workout and decrease the time it takes your muscles to recover.