Injury Prevention

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Injury Prevention is a topic much discussed in health and physiotherapy circles. As well as considerations of pain and suffering for the injured patients, it is a vital issue in attempts to decrease health costs and insurance premiums, improve sporting performance and increase participation in healthy activity. It is also something which the health professions are never likely to be completely successful at, for as long as people play sport, lift things, sit too long or drive cars (amongst many other activities) there will be injuries.

What is an Injury? 

Injury can be defined as “hurt, damage or impairment”. Biking, swimming, walking & running injuries are predominantly overuse injuries. These are injuries where the body’s ability to recover from a training session is less than the damage sustained during that session. The next session is therefore begun in a slightly injured state and over time the injury develops into a pain that you can feel. Further training will worsen the damage. Most running and biking injuries are located in the lower limbs, pelvis and lower back. Most swimming injuries are located in the neck and shoulders.

Overuse injuries

often build up slowly and can be categorised according to their severity:

a) Pre painful stage: the actual injury to the tissue involved (whether it be muscle, tendon or bone), occurs before the onset of pain. At this stage the area may be tender to touch, but the athlete experiences no pain during activity.

b) Grade 1: the athlete is aware of pain after activity. This will usually fade before the next training session.

c) Grade 2: pain is experienced at the beginning of a training session. It usually diminishes through the session but the athlete is again aware of pain after completing the session.  

d) Grade 3: at this stage there is pain before, during and after training. The athletes’ performance is reduced by the pain.

Guidelines to minimise risk of injury 

Equipment - Always use appropriate equipment for the job. Ill fitting cycling helmets, poor work-station set-up, tools that aren’t strong enough, using court shoes for long distance running are all things that contribute to people ending up injured and in the physiotherapy clinic.

Workload - Don’t load your body past its capacity to cope.  

Lifting overloaded wheelbarrows, running 10 km without training, typing for hours without a break can stress the body beyond its limits. Build up loads gradually allowing the body to adapt before applying more stress.

Body Mechanics - Make sure your body is in appropriate shape to do what you ask of it. Tight and weak muscles, joint stiffness, flat feet, poor posture, deconditioned cardiovascular systems limit your ability to perform tasks and can lead to injury.

Intensity - Go at your own pace. Trying to keep up with others, who can perform the task at a higher level than you, can lead to overload. Running with someone at their faster pace, trying to play at the level you could twenty years ago, helping to lift a lounge suite with your husband, typing faster than you can usually manage can push yourself into injury. (Ironically this is often how athletes improve their performance by pushing harder than they have before, however there is a fine line between performance improvement and injury.)

Recovery - Allow time for your body to recover before loading it again.  Working constantly until the job is done, doing the paving over the long weekend, going to the gym every day of the week fails to create the conditions in which the body can have time to strengthen.

Stress  - Don’t try to push too hard when under stress.

Observe all safety precautions - Following your sport and work safety rules helps protect against accidents.

Get a proper training programme - Use a coach or have a written training programme. This allows you to have a more objective approach to what you are doing and can avoid many of the pitfalls described above.

Injury prevention is not a sure thing. Despite the best plans, care and training programs people will still suffer injuries.

Following the injury prevention basics will only minimise the risk.

If you are injured, seek advice and treatment as soon as possible.

Treating overuse injuries 

You must not continue doing sessions that cause pain.  This will only continue the process of injury and lengthen the time for recovery.

Identify the cause of the injury

Involves an honest appraisal of your training habits and programme looking for areas that may be causing the problem.

Rectify the cause of the injury

Either self treatment or if you require the services of a health professional, make sure they: understand your sport, thoroughly examine you and discuss your problems fully, and give you a home programme and discuss how you should modify your training.

Seek treatment at an early stage: Physiotherapy 

The duration and severity of your injury will be significantly reduced if you introduce remedial action as soon as possible. You cannot train through an overuse injury. It will only get worse. Seek a Physiotherapist for treatment.

Maintain fitness by alternative means

Training in other sports that do not affect your pain, Activities such as water walking/running may allow you to maintain your cardiovascular fitness.


  • Seek treatment at an early stage
  • Ensure you physiotherapist provides you with methods of self treatment.