An Overview of Sport Injury Prevention

Man checking his knee for pain

Sports and fitness are essential components of an active, healthy lifestyle — yet injuries do occur from time to time. Sport injury prevention is essential for anyone who embraces an active lifestyle. If you’re passionate about how to prevent injuries in sports, you may wish to pursue a career related to exercise science and kinesiology.

In This Article:

Sport Injury Prevention Begins With Awareness

The first step in injury prevention training is to recognize the types of injuries that are most likely to occur in certain sports activities. Of course, virtually any sport has the potential to cause almost any type of injury. However, certain sports can be more closely associated with some injuries than others.

A sports injury can involve damage to the bones, joints, soft tissues (e.g., tendons, ligaments, muscles and nerves) or organs, such as the brain (e.g., traumatic brain injury). Here’s a look at some examples of common sports injuries and the activities that are most closely associated with them:1

  • Patellar tendinitis: Also called “jumper’s knee,” patellar tendinitis occurs when the tissue in the knee sustains inflammation or an injury. This injury is often associated with sports activities that involve lots of jumping, such as basketball and volleyball.
  • Rotator cuff injuries: The rotator cuff in the shoulder is a complex area that provides stability to the shoulder. It’s susceptible to repetitive usage injuries. These can be caused by activities such as swimming, baseball and tennis.
  • Achilles tendinitis: The Achilles tendon connects the heel to the calf muscle. It can become inflamed or injured when playing sports that require lots of running, such as baseball, football and soccer.

Now that you know the most common injuries in your chosen sport(s), you can take steps to potentially reduce their risk. For instance, if you think you are at a higher risk of an Achilles tendon injury, you can pay particular attention to that part of the body when stretching.

The Importance of Protective Gear for Preventing Sport Injuries

Using the right protective gear for each sport can be essential for reducing the risk of injuries.1 Many sports have their own protective gear.

For example, football players wear helmets that have been specially designed for their sport, along with various padding. Similarly, baseball players wear helmets when batting and pitchers may have the option of inserting a protective element into their baseball cap while pitching. It’s crucial that athletes wear the right gear for their sport and their gear is in good condition.

Injury Prevention Training Through Physical Conditioning

One way in which athletes can sustain sports injuries is by suddenly ramping up the intensity or duration of their activities. It’s necessary to build the proper physical conditioning so the body can handle the activity.

For instance, if you aren’t accustomed to running, it’s not advisable to go out and run for an hour right away. Instead, you’ll need to start slowly with shorter and less intense running workouts.

As a general rule of thumb, you should aim to increase the duration and intensity of any new workout by 10% every two weeks or when your current activity level no longer feels challenging.2

Warming Up Is Crucial for Preventing Sport Injuries

Another important step in sport injury prevention is warming up before each workout, practice or game. Muscles that haven’t been warmed up properly are at a higher risk of sustaining injuries. By warming up and stretching, you’re allowing your muscles to become more flexible and functional so they can perform as they should.3

Get your heart rate up in a warm-up routine. A few minutes of cardio is usually all that’s needed for a proper warm up. For example, you can jog in place, jump rope or cycle to warm up your muscles.3

The design of a ramp-up workout can vary, depending on the main activity. For example, if you’re going to run, you should first take a brisk walk, and then break out into a jog.3

In total, you should plan on spending about 10 minutes on your warm-up, and other pre-workout activities.3

Always Plan on Cooling Down

After your workout, it’s important to have a cool-down period. This involves gradually decreasing the intensity of your workout to give your muscles a chance to adjust.3

Cooling down reduces the risk of sports injuries, keeps the muscles limber and helps mitigate delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). Cooling down can also help reduce the risk of post-workout lightheadedness, which is caused by a sudden drop in blood pressure following the abrupt cessation of activity.4

Use the Right Technique for Each Activity

Using an improper technique to work out or play sports may increase the risk of an injury.5 Pay attention to the guidance given to you by a fitness instructor, coach or other professional regarding the correct way to execute specific movements or tasks.

By using the proper technique for each activity, you can ensure your body is in the correct alignment. For example, if your body is balanced correctly, you won’t risk overextending your joints. If you use the proper footwork, you can reduce the risk of an injury to the foot, ankle and other parts of the lower body.5

Engage in Cross-Training Activities

Cross-training is the act of training in a varied range of activities. For example, if you’re a runner, you should also do some strength training exercises instead of only running. Cross-training can reduce the risk of sports injuries caused by overtraining and repetitive strain.6

In addition to using techniques to prevent sport injuries, cross-training may also improve your physical conditioning, agility, flexibility and balance. Cross-training can help you rest certain muscle groups while working out others with different activities. Aim for a fitness training program that includes strength training, aerobic exercise and flexibility exercises (e.g., yoga and Pilates).6

Remember that if you choose to cross train, it’s still important to gradually ramp up the duration and intensity of your workouts, including your secondary or tertiary activities that are intended to support your primary sport. Avoid trying to do too much too quickly, and instead gradually build up your fitness program to reduce the risk of injuries.

Know When To Rest

Sports injuries don’t happen only when a person gets struck (e.g., by a baseball or by an opposing football player) or makes a sudden movement that tears soft tissue. They can also occur due to overexertion and repetitive strain. That’s why it is important to get regularly scheduled rest from activity.

Similarly, if you do sustain a sports injury or other type of injury, you should avoid exercising or participating in sports until you are cleared to resume activities. A medical professional will let you know when you’re fully healed and it’s safe to return to your usual fitness activities. If you try to resume exercise too quickly after being injured, you may risk re-injuring yourself.5

If you’re passionate about sports and fitness and would like to explore further how to prevent injuries in sports, you may want to build a foundation for your future career at Grand Canyon University. Offered by the College of Natural Sciences, the Bachelor of Science in Exercise Science with an Emphasis in Pre-Athletic Training degree program is intended to prepare students for graduate-level education in athletic training and exercise science or to pursue entry-level careers. 

Fill out the form on this page to learn more about becoming a pre-athletic training student at GCU.

1 (2023, March). Common sports injuries. Retrieved on Oct. 24, 2023.

2 Defense Centers for Public Health – Aberdeen. (2020, June 1). Physical training injury prevention. Retrieved on Oct. 24, 2023.

3 Excellence in Fitness. (n.d.). How to warm up the right way before you exercise to decrease injury. Retrieved Oct. 24, 2023.

4 Carter, S. (2022, Oct. 22). Why it’s important to cool down after exercise, according to the science. Live Science. Retrieved on Oct. 24, 2023.

5 Mount S. (n.d.). Sports injury prevention. Retrieved Oct. 24, 2023.

6 Mulcahey, M., MD, FAAOS. (2020). Cross training. American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons. Retrieved Oct. 24, 2023.

Approved by the department chair and professor of the College of Engineering and Technology on Feb. 8, 2024.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.

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