Most athletes engage in an exercise program with the main purpose being to increase performance.
But an important side-effect of a conditioning program is that it can help prevent or reduce injuries.
Being strong and flexible may not help you completely avoid any injury in any situation, but it can help decrease the amount of damage to your body and help speed the recovery process if you do get injured.
Athletes need to spend a little extra time and effort on muscles that are injured more frequently in their sport. Goalies in hockey often sustain groin injuries, pitchers in baseball can have rotator cuff problems, the forearm in tennis, the shoulder in swimmers, and so on.
It is not enough to just strengthen and stretch the frequently injured muscles. You need to think about simulating game situations on that area, which includes simulating joint position, speed, change of direction and so on.
And athletes should also spend some time to develop the muscles that are not used often in your sport. These under-used muscles are often weak or tight and may cause imbalances around the joint.
Work on the assisting, stabilizer muscles, which function as support structures to the power muscles. When the power muscles get used at their peak intensity, the stabilizer muscles had better keep up or they’ll get injured.
For non-athletes, it is also important to stay in shape to avoid or reduce injuries. It is estimated the U.S. annual price tag of occupational injuries and illnesses is $250 billion. This figure is $30 billion more than the direct and indirect costs of all cancer, $76 billion more than diabetes, and $187 billion more than strokes.
And it has been demonstrated in numerous studies that workplace injuries can be decreased when employees take part in a preventative fitness program, either in the workplace or on their own time. People involved in physical work can prevent or minimize low back strains or disc injuries.
Even those people who have sedentary desk jobs are prone to neck and shoulder pain and dysfunction, carpal tunnel or thoracic outlet syndrome.
A physical fitness routine can function as an injury prevention program and may help these employees avoid these types of injuries. In many of these situations, just a few, well-chosen exercises can be the difference between performing your job well and being off-work.
I have known many people over the years who have thought that just because you have a physical job means that you are fit and well-balanced, but it is just not true. Too often repetitive movements and the daily stresses of work cause negative effects within the body. This will cause tightness of muscle groups, imbalances of strength, coordination or muscle stabilization. These imbalances occur naturally with activity and are reinforced with each workday, and they are often the root of many injuries and may predispose people to greater risk of injury during work, recreation or home activities.
Unfortunately, it often takes an athlete or worker many injuries before they decide to initiate a fitness program. This information is not a substitute for specific medical opinion – please check with your doctor before starting an exercise program if you have a medical condition, and consider seeing a conditioning specialist or therapist if you need help planning a prevention or rehabilitation program.
Kerry Senchyna is the owner of West Coast Kinesiology and is a registered kinesiologist.