We all know that fitness translates to good health.

Exercising not only improves vitality, but builds the bones, strengthens the muscles, lowers stress, and helps reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke. Not only that, it makes us feel good!

The conundrum with sporting activity though, is that the more active we are, the higher the chance we have of wearing the body out. The trick is to find that intricate balance between the right level of exertion, while working within the limitations of our fitness levels and age.

However, as Australia is a nation obsessed with sports, injuries are a reality of life. While it’s possible to damage any part of the body while playing sports, the most common include those to the musculoskeletal system (think dislocations, sprains, muscle strains, fractures, tears, and back and neck injuries).

Konrad Schultz is a sports physiotherapist at Sports Lab in NSW. Sports Lab is a new generation health care centre focusing on injury management, performance improvement and total body care. Its treatments include physiotherapy, chiropractics, deep muscle therapy, dietetics and nutrition, podiatry, Pilates, exercise physiology and dry needling.

“When we are screening an athlete, one of the biggest things we look at is history of injury and whether an old injury has been rehabilitated properly,” he said.

“A lot of people, including professional athletes, fall into the trap of stopping treatment once they don’t feel sore anymore. It’s human nature to get lazy – and there are also the pressures of time and money. But it’s important to fully restore strength, range of motion, flexibility, balance and muscle co-ordination, otherwise the risk of re-injury is much higher.”

Konrad said while the human body was efficient at repairing itself, it was wise to seek professional help early on.

“From little things, big things grow, so a small injury can develop into a much larger issue if it’s not managed correctly early on,” he said.

“You don’t want to leave an issue for too long. You’re better off getting a professional opinion on whether you need treatment or whether you can manage the injury yourself. At Sports Lab, we rehabilitate each injury differently with a tailor made program for each client.”

Tips for preventing sports injuries

  • Make sure you do warm up exercises, especially if you have been sitting for prolonged periods beforehand.
  • Don’t overtrain or overload your body during a fitness workout.
  • After an intense workout, allow your body enough time to rest and recuperate – or your performance can decrease. Continuous training can weaken your body.
  • Build up your core muscles and lumbar pelvic area to protect your back.
  • Maintain good posture, especially during day-to-day activities.
  • Apply the RICE (rest, ice, compression and elevation) principles after an acute injury to control inflammation and to relieve pain.

Returning to sports after an injury

Seek professional advice on when it’s safe to return to your regular sporting activities.

But generally speaking, this can happen if you are pain free, have no swelling, enjoy a full range of motion and have regained your strength. But be extra careful with the injured part of your body – and don’t overdo it!