All sports have a risk of injury. In general, the more contact in a sport, the greater the risk of a traumatic injury. However, most injuries in athletes are due to overuse.
The most frequent types of sports injuries are sprains (injuries to ligaments) strains (injuries to muscles), and stress fractures (injuries to bones). Injury occurs when excessive stress is placed on tendons, joints, bones and muscle.
To reduce the risk of injury:
- Take time off. Plan to have at least 1 day off per week and at least one month off per year from training for a particular sport to allow the body to recover.
- Wear the right gear. Appropriate and properly fit protective equipment such as pads (neck, shoulder, elbow, chest, knee, shin), helmets, mouthpieces, face guards, protective cups, and eyewear should always be worn. Athletes should not assume that protective gear will prevent all injuries while performing more dangerous or risky activities.
- Strengthen muscles. Conditioning exercises during practice strengthens muscles used in play.
- Increase flexibility. Stretching exercises after games or practice can increase flexibility. Stretching should also be incorporated into a daily fitness plan.
- Use the proper technique.
- Take breaks. Rest periods during practice and games can reduce injuries and prevent heat illness.
- Play safe. Strict rules against headfirst sliding (baseball and softball), spearing (football), and checking (in hockey) should be enforced. Obey recommended pitch counts for youth baseball players.
- Do not play through pain. Athletes often underestimate an injury’s severity, thinking they can push through the pain when their bodies really need rest and treatment.
- Avoid heat illness by drinking plenty of fluids before, during and after exercise or play. Decrease or stop practices or competitions during high heat/humidity periods and wear light clothing.