Dr Christopher Jones is an experienced osteopath who has worked with the Australian Athletics Team and has treated numerous World and Olympic Champion Athletes during his career. He has seen firsthand the importance of injury prevention and management for his patients. He shares with us his top tips for injury prevention, especially for runners and athletes.
If you’re an active person who has been frustrated by injuries in the past, you’re not alone. One study of national level athletes found 61% had experienced an injury in the previous 12 months. Another study found 76% of athletes suffered an injury in the previous year. Suffice to say, injuries are common.
The main injuries that were reported were stress fractures (20.5%), hamstring muscle injuries (14.2%), and knee overuse injuries (12.6%).
INTENSITY AND VOLUME OF TRAINING
A significant amount (around 72%) of injuries are attributed to overuse, which makes recovery between training sessions and structure of your training program incredibly important. A good rule of thumb to follow is the “10% rule”, which says that you should not increase the volume or intensity of your training by more than 10% each week.
Let’s say you’re training for a marathon, and you want to increase your mileage. If this week you ran 40km in total, say 4 x 10km runs. Next week you should not do more than 44km in total. By gradually increasing the volume of training you are doing, you reduce your risk of injury significantly.
RISK REDUCTION EXERCISES
According to a 2020 study, there are certain exercises you can perform to reduce your risk of injury. In this study, athletes were given a program of 8 exercises to see if they would reduce the number and severity of injuries suffered over the course of the athletics season.
The program included eccentric hamstring, Achilles and quadriceps exercises, ankle strength and stability exercises, and core stability exercises. The authors of the study concluded that this combination of exercises “can significantly help to reduce the occurrence of injury complaints leading to restrictions in athletics participation”.
RECOVERY IS KEY
So apart from being careful to gradually increase your training volume and intensity, and performing preventative exercises, the next thing you want to focus on is optimising your recovery.
Nutrition and sleep play a huge part in that, and so do things like ice baths and stretching. If ice baths are not an option for you, locally applying ice packs can be a great way to minimise any inflammatory response from high intensity training sessions.
Another option you can try is alternating cold and heat. This will open and close the blood vessels to stimulate blood flow, which can have the effect of reducing inflammation in an area. A good protocol for this would be ice pack for 3-5 minutes, then heat for 3-5 minutes, and you can repeat this up to three times. It’s a fantastic way to improve recovery after exercise.
BodyICE Recovery Packs can be used for both ice and heat and are designed to mould around injured joints and body parts. The range combines ice bags using real ice or hot water, with elastic neoprene supports for comfortable compression.