Impact of Injuries
Injuries come with pain and this prevents us from functioning normally. Depending on the severity, injuries can rob us of our independence, activities we enjoy and even precious sleep. Injuries can also affect families, teams and companies when people are unable to work or perform. Finding ways to prevent injuries is a growing concern for many.
Injury Prevention versus Injury Risk Reduction
Prevention means to stop something from happening or existing. Unfortunately, we cannot stop all injuries from happening. Injury Risk Reduction is a more correct term because most injury prevention strategies actually reduce our chances of being injured and not stop them.
“Too much, too quick after doing too little for too long”
Most injuries happen when we load our muscles and other structures too much and too fast, after not loading them as much for a while. Loading basically refers to us “adding pressure/stress” to our body structures, for example, exercising, carrying groceries and so on.
Our bodies were so amazingly created that if we gradually and consistently add load or put a demand on it, then it adapts to be able to handle the said load or demand. That is why the more we do physical activities the easier they become.
Examples of this injury mechanism:
During Christmas, most people take far more time to clean their house, a drastic increase in workload compared to the rest of the year.
A person stopped playing a sport for years or several months then one day decides to go and play at the same intensity he or she used to.
It is someone’s first week in the gym. He/she never used to lift weights and then decided to lift heavy without a gradual progression. These sudden increases in load, especially after not doing much for a while, significantly increases one’s risk of injury.
The key to reducing injuries like these is to know that our bodies are dynamic, they will adapt to whatever stress/load we put them through, but it is important to take our time to enjoy these activities, listen to our bodies, know our limits and gradually progress.
The Workplace: Avoiding Injuries
Common complaints of the working class are back and neck pains. Potential triggers could include prolonged sitting over six hours, stress and/or depression. General tips to avoid injuries or aches and pains while at work are:
Take small breaks—The body loves movement, take at least a minute every hour to walk away or stretch, you would be surprised at the difference it makes.
Exercise regularly—this improves our health, makes our bodies stronger and better able to handle the demands that our jobs place on them. Exercise decreases symptoms of depression, anxiety and may help to improve sleep. Exercising regularly, coupled with good work ergonomics, would significantly decrease pain or injuries.
Follow Safety Instructions—The use of safety guidelines and protocols, obeying warning signs and wearing protective equipment, will decrease injuries.
The Home: Avoiding Injuries
The most common musculoskeletal household injuries include trips and falls, sprains and back pains. Older adults with impaired mobility or cognition are at greater risk of falls with possibilities of having fractures (broken bones) and other negative consequences. Trips and falls may also lead to sprains and other injuries.
Always ensure your floors are clean and dry (non-slip flooring preferred). The floors should be free of hazards (wires, tools, toys et cetera) that could lead to a trip or fall. Older adults who engage in balance training and exercise classes under supervision have significantly less risk of falling.
Back injuries, especially when lifting and carrying objects in the home can be minimised if we: know our limits, ask for help when needed, improve our lifting mechanics and take breaks.
Reducing Risk of Sports/
Let us look briefly on a few popular sports injuries and what is recommended to reduce their occurrences.
Hamstring Injuries—programmes designed to increase eccentric hamstring strength, a common exercise used is the Nordic drops.
Ankle Sprains—ankle taping and bracing and neuromuscular (balance/proprioceptive) training have been proven effective for the prevention of ankle sprain re-occurrences.
Acute Knee Injuries—various programmes using structured exercises, especially in warm up before training or matches, have strong evidence that has shown a decrease of 25-50 per cent of knee injuries in teams. The exercises are generally targeted at strength, balance and neuromuscular control. The FIFA 11+ warm-up is one of the more prominent programmes with good results.
Overuse injuries—close monitoring of athletes’ training and competition loads may be an effective prevention strategy. Protective equipment and appropriate surfaces also play a valuable role in reducing the risk of injuries.
Prevention is better than cure. While some things are inevitable and we cannot prevent all injuries, we definitely can reduce our risk of sustaining them. Implementing injury prevention or risk reduction strategies can be beneficial to all.
Please remember when implementing injury prevention programmes it is always good to seek professional advice so that you get the best results.
Adrian Palmer, PT, BScPT, PAPHS Registered Physical Therapist (RPT) ACSM/NPAS Physical Activity in Public Health Specialist