Statistics show that more than 416,000 Kiwis have played a round of golf in the last 12 months. Completely devoid of age barriers at either end of the spectrum and with the likelihood of finding a golf course even in the Himalayas (no kidding, look it up), the sport’s accessibility is huge.
Squash, still fighting tooth and nail to become an Olympic Sport, is played in 153 countries and with a whopping 25 clubs in Waikato alone, attracts its fair share of participants. Tennis and squash are just behind golf with more than 300,000 Kiwi participants in a year.
All of these sports are arguably ‘social’ sports, with well-furnished clubs and plenty of conversation. Many participants are life-long players.
These sports also boast an unfair share of the injury rate as any good physio will tell you, and so if you want to be a life-long participant, then it pays to make injury prevention a key part of your involvement.
How to avoid injuries in recreational sport
Warm up well – dynamic stretching and sport specific movements performed with control and done for long enough to create flexibility and warmth in the muscles – get a sweat up.
Hydrate – generally, anything you sweat out playing sport needs to be replaced. If you really want to know how much, weigh yourself pre-game then post game, minus fluid consumed during the game; the difference (+a bit more) is fluid still to be drunk (which doesn’t mean beer).
Get expert advice on a sport specific strengthening programme you can do twice a week. Include stretching at least once a week.
In a study in the American Journal of Sports medicine, 44.5 percent of squash players sustained an injury in the previous year, half of them to lower body extremities, the ankles being the most common. 47 percent of these injuries put them out for a week or longer.
Physiological causes included lack of warming up (the most common response to the question about the cause of injury), fatigue, poor body condition, and previous injury. Physical factors included footwear and court conditions. Being over 40 years of age and/or new and gung-ho are also risk factors.
In a British Journal of Sports Medicine study in 2006, it found close to 50 percent of tennis players sustained a knee injury, with sprains, overuse injuries and cramps rounding out the list, which even Nadal famously succumbed to in 2011 in New York.
In golf, a 2007 study showed a 16 percent injury rate. The lower back appears the most common site for injury, followed closely by the elbow, foot, ankle and shoulder.
Interesting here is that age, gender, experience, and handicap were insignificant factors in prevalence of injury. The amount of time spent playing, lack of warm-up and most interesting – the amount of time since clubs were changed – increased risk.
So what does this mean for your social sport participation?
Expert advice (and likely nothing new) would be to ensure a very good warm up. It’s now common knowledge that static stretching, (holding the limb in a stationary stretched position) without involving any range of motion is not as effective as dynamic stretching. Dynamic stretching involves a slower rate of movement than the real thing, but puts the muscles through the same swinging, lunging and running which primes them for the rigours of the sport about to be played.
Hydration is one of the keys to avoiding cramp, with more than 75 percent of Westerners walking around under-hydrated every day.
Muscle imbalances and overuse are undoubtedly leading causes of injury and so this is where specific strength training and stretching are vital to ongoing participation. Again, studies show that a mere two times per week of strength training specific to that sport can hold injuries at bay and balance up the muscles and movement patterns to prevent overuse.