Get the most out of your favourite sport and avoid injuries with these tips
Taking up a sport can keep us fit and healthy, whatever age we are. But it’s easy to forget that our sporting heroes prepare carefully to avoid injury.
More than six million Europeans a year are treated in hospital for sports injuries, 40 per cent of them occurring outside organized sport.
Around a third of sports injuries in Europe affect adolescents and young adults (16-24 years of age) with the majority (60%) occurring in participation sports. Home, leisure and sports injuries account for 73% of all hospital-treated injuries.
The sports that cause the most injuries are "team ball sports", which account for 44% of all hospital-treated sports injuries. Within this, football is the sport that causes the most of these injuries.
So what do we have to do to stay on the field practising our favourite sports?
No matter how fit you feel, or how little you plan to exercise, a warm-up is a must. Gently stretch and exercise those muscles for at least five to 10 minutes. But don’t rush it - start slowly and build up gradually. Equally important is the cool down. Even when all you want to do is run into the shower, spend a final 5-10 minutes on gentle exercise such as walking.
Listen to your body, know your physical limits, and if you are into middle age or beyond be kind to yourself. When beginning a new sport, or if you have been away from exercise, go slowly and steadily. Build up your stamina and strength gradually. Stretching exercises after games or practice should be in anyone’s daily fitness plan.
Remember to drink plenty of water - fluids are vital, as dehydration can significantly reduce mental and physical fitness.
Plan and prepare
For some sports, especially those that involve physical contact, the right protective equipment is essential to shield vulnerable parts of the body. Don’t forget strong footwear, which can help prevent twisting your ankle. In many sports, there are techniques you can learn that can greatly reduce the risk of injury to muscles, tendons and bones.
That’s also important in the gym, where experts can advise on using equipment safely and effectively.
Cyclists – use padded gloves, make sure wrists do not drop below the handlebars, change the grip to take the stress off over-used muscles, stretch hands and wrists before riding.
Golfers – don’t just grab the driver and go, stick to a specific stretching/flexing routine every time, and hit a few golf balls working up from wedge to driver.
Runners – check your socks for fit and thickness to avoid blisters and irritation, make sure your shoes have good support arches and are not angled or worn thin.
You are not Superman or Wonder Woman. There’s nothing wrong with taking rest periods during practice and games. And schedule regular time off from training - at least one day off a week and one month a year.
Europ Assistance and Generali are committed to promoting a healthy lifestyle among customers, promoting sports and sponsoring the Milan Marathon in April 2019. We have also created more advice on sports that can help you be healthier, happier and more active! Find out more with our look at some of the most exciting exercise trends today.