Guest Post: Lucy Wyndham
If you belong to the 19 percent of the US population that participates in sports on an average day, you've probably had to deal with a few injuries in the past. While sports participation can be incredibly fun and fulfilling, it increases the risk of certain injuries such as dislocations, sprains, muscle injuries, joint injuries and fractures. Of all the injuries you can get, leg injuries are among the worst. Not only can a leg injury make you miss out on some sporting action for weeks but it can also affect your ability to perform daily life activities like going to work, running errands, or even going from one room to another in your home. Luckily, there are various measures you can take before, during and after playing sports to reduce the risk of sustaining a leg injury.
Develop a fitness plan
You need to develop a fitness plan that includes strength training, cardiovascular exercise and flexibility to decrease the chances of leg injuries, especially if you engage in high-intensity sports like basketball, football or soccer. You cannot afford to skip leg day if your goal is to keep your legs strong and healthy. Come up with a workout program that strengthens your leg muscles; squats, lunges, deadlifts, step-ups and hamstring curls are some of the most effective leg exercises. As you exercise, take your time and go through the full range of motion to improve muscle flexibility and further reduce injury risk.
Have proper warm-up and cool-down sessions after playing sports
The activities you engage in before and after a game can reduce or increase your risk of suffering from leg injuries. A 20-30 minute warm-up session that consists of stretching exercises combined with light cardiovascular exercise can greatly reduce the risk of leg injuries. Warming up increases blood flow to your leg muscles, loosens the joints, and increases flexibility in your muscles, preparing them for the sudden movements which will follow in the game. After the game, you also need to give your legs some time to cool down before driving home. Cooling down allows your body to dispose of lactic acid, which can cause muscle stiffness and increase the chances of injury. You also need to make space and comfort a top priority when researching a vehicle; driving a car with insufficient leg room after games can cause painful leg muscle cramps.
Play the sport properly
A lot of sports injuries happen as a result of playing the sport incorrectly. First of all, wear the right protective gear depending on the sport you are playing. For example, if you are playing football, you need shin guards, knee pads, and thigh pads to keep your legs protected. Knee compression sleeves can also stabilize your knee muscles to prevent pain caused by unsupported motion. If you are playing basketball, you need to have a stable pair of shoes that fit well, provide adequate ankle support, and have good grip to prevent sliding. You also need to learn the rules and techniques of the sport you're playing to help you stay out of harm's way and prevent injury to other players. For instance, you need to practice proper defensive sliding techniques to avoid injuring yourself and others when playing soccer.
Get enough sleep
Getting enough sleep every day is an important part of injury prevention, especially if you play sports every day. Sports can take a toll on your body, leaving your leg tissues and muscles worn out. Sleep gives your body the chance to repair and regenerate bones, muscles, tendons, ligaments and growth plates to prevent overuse injuries. Sleep also improves reaction time, which helps you avoid risky situations more easily.
Leg injuries can put you in a world of pain and make you miss out on playing sports for a long time. By taking the correct injury prevention measures, you can keep your legs healthy so that you keep enjoying playing the sport you love. However, if you do sustain a leg injury, take as much time off as you need for adequate rehabilitation before you start playing again to avoid making it worse.