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Steering clear of injuries
Roberto Carlos and Ronaldo in a stretching session with Brazil
Even top footballers need to stretch before training

Injuries are the curse of sportsmen and women around the world.

Whether it is a sprained ankle or a serious leg break, there is nothing more frustrating than watching your team-mates from the sidelines because of injury.

Some are unpreventable, but other injuries can be avoided by following a few simple steps.

This is not a comprehensive guide by all means - always seek immediate medical attention for serious injuries.

WARMING UP

Warming up and cooling down before and after every training session and competition helps to increase blood flow around the body.

This means the muscles and tissues can move with more freedom and are less prone to wear and tear.

There are four main areas to work on:

  • Warm ups should begin with easy aerobic activity - for example, jogging for five to 15 minutes.

  • Gentle stretching exercises.

    Make sure you stretch each of the main muscle groups you will use in training or competition.

    Australian rugby league team St George Illawarra in pre-season training
    Light jogging is the perfect warm-up exercise before a match

    So if you are a butterfly swimmer, stretch your shoulder, back and neck muscles.

    These stretches should last for between 10-15 seconds. The whole warm up routine should last between 10-15 minutes.

  • Try running, swimming or cycling.

    Most games, like rugby, hockey and football involve a lot of running. Try short runs at half to three-quarter speed, but never flat out.

    The aim of this part of the warm-up is to stretch your muscles and joints, making them more flexible and less likely to tear.

  • Cooling down at the end of a training session or competition helps avoid injuries.

    It helps the body dispose of waste products that have built up in the muscles while exercising or playing.

    The cool-down involves the first two parts of the warm-up - light aerobic exercise and gentle stretching.

    Usually you don't need to complete the third part of the warm-up during the cool down.

    MANAGING INJURY

    If you are unlucky enough to get injured, here are some basic procedures to help minimise damage.

  • Head injuries: It is important that you do not rejoin the training session or competition even if you think you feel OK. Make sure you see a doctor and follow their advice.

    Kevin Pietersen wraps an ice pack around his arm
    Cricketer Kevin Pietersen gets the ice pack treatment

  • Broken bones: These require immediate medical treatment. Do not move the injured person if a broken bone is suspected.

    Any movement could cause further damage, so wait until someone who is qualified can assess the situation.

  • Cuts: If you are cut during training or competition, your coach should use basic first aid to stop bleeding until medical assistance arrives.

    Coaches and parents should wear proper sterilised plastic gloves when treating all cuts.

  • Grazes: Clean any dirt from a graze very gently and, if you can, use antiseptic cream and a light band-aid or bandage to stop infection.

    But check if the injured person has any allergies before you do any of this.

  • Muscle strains and tears: Put a bag of crushed ice or cold pack on the injury as soon as possible.

    The cold pack should be kept on the injury for 10-15 minutes, and then taken off for 10-15 minutes.

    This procedure should be repeated until the swelling begins to decrease.

    Raising the injured part of your body while applying ice also helps recovery.

    If you are at all worried about an injury to yourself or others, make sure you seek professional medical help, either through your doctor or hospital.



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