Musculoskeletal injuries are common among athletes. Although this differs among different sports, the majority of injuries are due to a combination of factors, whereby it is very difficult to establish the exact mechanism leading to an injury. Musculoskeletal injuries can occur when there is an overload of the musculoskeletal structures that exceeds the ability of regeneration or adaptation (Saragiotto 2014). Studies performed at international competitions and Olympic Games found that the rate of injury in athletes varies from 10% to 65% and that most of these injuries affect the lower limbs (Saragiotto 2014). For that reason, the prevention of sports injuries is the main goal of all professionals involved in sports.
Saragiotto (2014) looked at 5 theoretical models for the prevention of sports injuries.
1. Identification of the magnitude of the problem (prevalence and incidence of injuries)
2. Identification of the cause and mechanism of injury
3. Implementation of an intervention strategy aimed at injury prevention
4. Measurement of the effectiveness of the intervention.
5. Psychological aspects and behavioral strategies reported by the participants for injury prevention.
The extrinsic factors most frequently mentioned by athletes are those related to training, equipment, the environment and the sport characteristics. This includes overtraining, insufficient muscle strength, lack of rest, the movements related to the particular sport (change of direction, deceleration, jumping, physical contact and movements with a wide range of motion) and repetitive movements, among others. In a study were athletes and professionals were asked to explain their beliefs on overuse injuries, factors related to training and equipment, including overtraining, a fast increase in the training load and changes in training and equipment, were mentioned as factors for injuries. These results suggest that sports professionals are concerned with the training load placed on the athletes. When the professionals were asked about the prevention of sports injuries, the three interventions most frequently mentioned were exercises for muscle strengthening, sensorimotor training and stretching (Saragiotto 2014). Research has not mentioned the exact relationship between the most frequently mentioned causes of injury and the preventive strategies applied. In the case of overtraining, which was the cause of injury most frequently mentioned, prevention needs to be based on the athletes’ recovery, which might be active or passive.
The strategy for injury prevention most frequently stated by athletes were exercises for muscle strengthening, and the majority of them reported to include this strategy as a part of the athletes’ training or treatment. Research reviews found that the number of programs for the prevention of sports injuries based on changes in training was larger compared to the number of programs that include changes in equipment or rules and educational strategies (Saragiotto 2014). Among the programs changes to training as a preventive measure, those focusing on coordination and balance, followed by training programs for increasing muscle strength and power. There have only been a few studies that looked at the development of injury prevention programs for elite athletes.
Saragiotto BT, Di Pierro C, Lopes AD. Risk factors and injury prevention in elite athletes: a descriptive study of the opinions of physical therapists, doctors and trainers. Braz J Phys Ther. 2014 Mar-Apr;18(2):137-43.
Written by Chris Barber, CPT