How Specific Warm Ups Can Help You Stay Injury Free

In an ideal world, we would want to perform at our best and be injury free at all times. However, hard training and ultimate performance brings with it an increased risk of injury. It’s also no coincidence that if a team can keep its players on the field/court, or if an athlete can participate in more training sessions, the better the chances of a good performance or season. The question is then, how can we reduce the risk of injury while also enhancing our performance?

The answer may not be a popular option, and it’s certainly no fancy magic pill. Warming up prior to activity is consistently being shown to be important in reducing the risk of injury.

Warm ups are often performed (perhaps they are more often avoided!), but do we ever think about why we do them? I’m sure the main reason we warm up is that it is important to prepare for the upcoming activity. Perhaps for some, it’s because the coach tells us to! Maybe warm ups are avoided because they are boring, or it’s not a fancy new trend the latest social media stars are doing.

Whilst warming up is important, it is more important that it be a specific warm up.

Recent studies show that a specific warm up before activity can be important in reducing the risk of injury.

Programs such as the FIFA11+ and the PEP (Prevent Injury and Enhance Performance) have been trialled and tested in professional and amateur soccer athletes, basketball players and high school athletes. Both programs consist of a number of different activities:

* Static and dynamic stretching – to prepare muscles and joints for the movements they are likely to encounter.

* Light activity (eg. jogging) – to increase heart rate and blood flow.

* Strength exercises (eg. heel raises, squat, side planks) – for muscle activation prior to activity.

* Balance and neuromuscular exercises (eg. standing on one leg, hopping, agility) – in preparation for changes of direction, or reacting to opponents or objects.

* Sports specific activities – so we are ready for the demands of the activity we are about to perform.

The FIFA11+ program was developed for soccer. A study performed in 2008 showed that athletes who performed the FIFA11+ program at least twice per week had a reduced risk of injury by 30%, and a reduced risk of severe injury by up to 50%. Training injuries reduced by 37% and match injuries by 29%.

The ‘Prevent Injury and Enhance Performance’ (PEP) program consists of similar activities, and has been shown to reduce the risk of ACL injuries in female soccer players (Mandelbaum, 2005).

Here in Australia, some of our sports governing bodies are developing their own specific warm up protocols. Netball Australia has implemented the KNEE program and the AFL is rolling out the FOOTY FIRST program.

No matter what activity you are performing, the following sites will give you an idea of the exercises involved. Think about some of the sport specific movements you have to perform and add them in as well.

Share this with your coaches, teachers, parents and teammates. Start copying the professionals and give yourself the best chance to stay injury free.

If you have any questions, or would be interested in being shown these exercises or programs, our physiotherapists and exercise physiologists happy to provide more information.

About the Author:

Ryan Carroll is a Physiotherapist and Director at Physiotas.

Ryan is a Director of Physiotas and an APA Sports Physiotherapist. He studied his Bachelor of Physiotherapy at University of Queensland.  Ryan then worked for a year in a hospital before moving to Tasmania to join the clinic. He returned to Queensland for a while to complete his Masters of Sports Physiotherapy through La Trobe University. During this time his studies included stints at Richmond Football Club and the AIS.

Having lived and worked in Tasmania for over 10 years, Ryan now regards himself as a local! Ryan’s professional interests include sports injuries, adolescent/junior sport injuries, knee and ankle/foot injuries.  He is involved with Basketball Australia ADC, the North West Thunder Basketball Club, Tennis Australia ProTour and the Tasmanian Institute of Sport.

Ryan’s personal interests include spending time with family and friends, running, cycling, mountain biking and surfing.