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Top Tips to Help Prevent Sports Injuries in Kids and Parents

Participating in sports and taking regular exercise is well known for being good for your health, or the health of your kids. Sports also play an important role in our lifestyle and culture. However, sports injuries can and do happen regularly.

With the Irish Times reporting that one-third of visits to HSE minor injury clinics are sports related, it’s important to always keep the risks in mind as sporting injuries are common. There are simple steps you can take to reduce the risks. By following some basic tips and preparing properly, you can minimise the risk of sports injury that could keep your kids off school, parents unable to work or being unable to participate in the sports and hobbies that we enjoy.

The Benefits of Sports and Exercise

In addition to being highly beneficial to our physical health, sports provide us with social contact, competition and are proven to be good for our all-round health and wellbeing. Participating in sport and regular exercise play a key part in a healthy and active lifestyle.

Common Sports Injuries

Sports injuries are commonly caused by:

  • Accidents – such as a heavy blow, a fall (or a mistimed tackle from an opponent)
  • Failing to warm up sufficiently – not warming up properly is all too common and one of the key things to you can do to reduce the risk of injury
  • Using inappropriate equipment, footwear or clothing
  • Pushing yourself too hard
  • Using inappropriate or poor technique

Although ankles and knees are commonly affected, sports injuries can affect any part of the body including bones, joints, muscles, tendons and ligaments.

Tips to Prevent Sports Injuries

You can reduce the risk of getting injured, or the risk of your kids getting injured, by ensuring that you:

  • Warm up properly – a qualified healthcare professional or sports coach is the person to seek advice from, about the most appropriate warmups and stretches for the specific sport
  • Don’t overdo it – be mindful and realistic about your personal fitness levels, experience in the activity and your technique and skill levels
  • Use appropriate equipment for the specific sport or activity – your coach, supervisor, sports teacher and other qualified sports professionals are the best people to talk to about getting the right gear
  • Wear the right footwear and clothing – for example suitable running shoes, shin pads for football, gum shields for rugby or suitable walking boots for hiking and the terrain and weather conditions
  • Get expert advice and coaching – to learn the correct techniques

If you or your children are starting a new sport, it’s important to get advice from a qualified sports coach or healthcare professional.

Physiotherapy Techniques You Can Use Before Your Activity

Techniques used by the Irish Society of Chartered Physiotherapists sports injury rehabilitation programme could also be useful before your activities, to help prevent injuries from occurring in the first instance. On top of that, they could also be beneficial to your sporting performance.

It would be well worth asking your coach, supervisor or the trained staff in the facility you play your sports in for advice on how you can use the techniques prescribed by physiotherapists as rehabilitation treatments, before you play.

Ask your coach, trainer, supervisor or the staff at the sporting facility for advice in the following areas, before your sporting activities:

  • Injury prevention advice
  • Advice on techniques and properly using the equipment
  • Advice on properly warming up and warming down
  • Customised exercise routines, tailored to you and your specific sport
  • Advice on when to return to your sport or activity, when you’ve got a slight niggle or injury
  • Preseason fitness training, testing and screening

What to do if you have A Sports Injury

If you’ve picked up an injury, you are likely to notice symptoms such as swelling, bruising, tenderness, pain, stiffness and restricted movement in the affected area. Sometimes, it can take several hours for you to notice any symptoms after you’ve finished exercising or sports.

If you feel any pain whilst you’re playing sports or exercising, it’s vital that you stop immediately. Continuing to exercise whilst injured is a critical factor in the amount of damage and the time it will take to recover.

If your injury is minor, you probably don’t need to see a doctor. For minor injuries, there are some basic steps you can take at home. You can usually treat minor niggles and injuries at home with:

  • Rest – the affected body part for the next 48 – 72 hours to prevent any further damage
  • Apply an ice pack – holding an ice pack on the area affected can reduce swelling during the first 48 – 72 hours after injury
  • Take over the counter painkillers – painkillers such as ibuprofen or paracetamol can relieve pain

If your symptoms are severe or don’t get better within several days or a few weeks, your doctor may be able to refer you for specialists sports treatments, such as physiotherapy. Click here for a list of Chartered Physio’s in Cork.

It can take from a few weeks to a few months to fully recover from a sports injury, depending on the type of injury you have. While your injury is healing, it’s important that you avoid trying to do too much too quickly. You should aim to increase your physical activity gradually, as your symptoms get better over time.

For more information and guidance on what to do if you have a sports injury, click to download a sports injury guide leaflet from the Irish Society of Chartered Physios.