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How to safely return to sport

Published: 18 February 2022 - Fitness and Training, Injury Treatment and Prevention, Physio Tips, Wellbeing, Women’s Health

After a long and intense sports season, everyone takes a break to celebrate their wins and count their losses. You plan on staying in shape, but suddenly pre-season training is around the corner - where did the time go!

By now there’s no use cramming late gym sessions into all your free time. The amount of time you’ve taken off will affect your training approach, and you’ll most likely cause injury by suddenly working too hard in such a short time frame.

There’s no use in feeling guilty.

Most of us understand the benefits that are associated with a regular exercise routine, but conviction and determination are difficult traits for any human to sustain. In order to prevent burning out, it’s best to focus on little steps toward improving your fitness and perform them to the best of your ability.

Your first step, before returning to any sport or fitness regime, should always be to consult a physician. Your physiotherapist will assess your current health and fitness status and ensure you know your limits when returning to exercise.

Whether you play netball, basketball, football or tennis, these top 5 physio tips can help you return to sport safely:

1. Take it slow

It may be tempting for you to jump straight in, but a ‘she’ll be right’ attitude may end up being your downfall. Gradually regaining your strength and aerobic fitness is the best way to prevent injury in the gym and on the field.

2. Warm up

Correct warm up procedure is often undervalued. Warming up before starting a heavy workout or game of sport can ensure a more safe and productive session by gently preparing your body for the hard work to come. Your warm up should include:

  • A ‘Pulse Raiser’. In other words, something that increases your heart rate, pumps blood and oxygen to your muscles and gets you feeling warm. Walking, jogging, cycling (or dancing!) are some of our favourite ways to warm up.
  • A ‘Joint Mobilizer’. Our joints actually have a natural lubricant called ‘synovial fluid’, which helps you move smoothly and comfortably.  It is produced according to demand, so in order to prepare your joints warm up with some gentle ankle circles, shoulder shrugs and hip openers.
  • ‘Dynamic Stretching’. When it comes to warming up, stretching should take our muscles through a range of motion, rather than holding them static for a long period of time. This better prepares our body for a workout or game of sport. Some of our favourite dynamic stretches include walking lunges, high kicks, jump squats and T push ups.

If you find some of these examples too physically challenging, your Back In Motion physio will recommend appropriate warm up exercises that are tailored to your fitness and flexibility limits.

3. Feet first

We spend a lot of time on our feet, in fact some of the most common sports injuries occur in the foot and ankle. Therefore, it’s very important we give them proper support and protection in high impact games such as football, basketball and tennis.

High quality footwear goes as far to prevent back problems, correct posture and gait and even improve performance. Your Back In Motion physio can advise you on the correct shoes to wear for your sport and even provide custom orthotics if appropriate.

4. Hydrate

This seems like an obvious one - we all know drinking water is critical to maintaining our health. However, staying hydrated is even more important when returning to sport and exercise. Drinking water throughout your game will help prevent muscle cramps, dehydration, dizziness and heat stroke. Be sure to drink plenty of water after your game to replenish all those lost fluids.

5. Recovery

Rest is an integral part of any exercise plan. Without the ability to replenish its energy stores, your body will become stressed and more susceptible to injury and illness. Make sure to schedule and adhere to appropriate resting times, along with the recommended 7-9 hours sleep every night.

These tips may be applied when returning to any sports or fitness regime. For more specific advice relating to performance within a particular sport, reach out to your local Back In Motion practice.