Sports Injury Prevention

Sports injury prevention and how to avoid injuries when playing sports, physical games or other active pursuits is important. In many cases sports injury prevention is possible without incurring much expense (e.g. buying special equipment) or making changes that reduce the enjoyment derived from participating in the activity. It is, however, necessary to think and plan ahead.

The steps necessary to avoid sports injuries or at least to reduce the risk of injury depend on the particular sport or activity.

For example, some of the precautions recommended for rock climbing are not relevant when playing tennis. There are also some general considerations relevant to most activities even though they may be applied differently depending on the circumstances and activity. The following general list of considerations for sports injury prevention is typical of those discussed in schools e.g. in GCSE PE (GCSE Physical Education) lessons:

How to avoid sports injuries:

  1. Appropriate training
  2. Warm up and cool down
  3. Appropriate protection
  4. Appropriate clothing
  5. Know and follow the rules
  6. Environmental Considerations

Each of these points (1-6) is explained below.

Criteria for Sports Injury Prevention


Appropriate training

Some physical activities involve particular skills for which sufficient proficiency is needed in order to participate safely. This can apply to both team games e.g. ice hockey and to individual activities that some people just enjoy with a few friends, e.g. downhill skiing.
To avoid injuries it is advisable to :

  • Develop the necessary skills in a safe environment - with supervision or coaching if / as appropriate.
  • Develop and maintain sufficient fitness for the demands of the activity.
  • Participate in the sport / activity at a level appropriate for your ability.


Warm up and cool down

  • It is important to warm-up the body correctly before engaging in strenuous athletic activities such as lifting heavy weights, running very fast and requiring ones muscles and joints to apply or resist considerable forces.
    Why ? A good and effective proper warm up can increase the blood flow to working muscles, reducing muscle stiffness and risk of injury while at the same time improving athletic performance.
  • It is also important to cool-down the body after strenuous exercise.
    Why ? This contributes to sports injury prevention by helping the tissues (especially muscle tissues) dissipate waste products such as lactic acid. An effective cool-down can also reduce the likelihood of delayed onset muscle soreness, reduce the chances of feeling dizzy/faint due to accumulation of venous blood at the extremities e.g. hands and feet, lower the level of the hormone adrenaline in the blood, and enable the heart rate to return to its resting rate gradually and in a controlled way.


Appropriate protection

Some sports require the use of particular items of protective equipment such as shin pads, gloves, special types of footwear, or helmets.


Appropriate clothing

  • DO wear the most appropriate kit for the sport or activity.
    Why ?
    Sports garments are designed and developed for specific activities. Not only does the right kit "look" right but it often offers protection, the most appropriate ease of movement, and should therefore enhance rather than detract from enjoyment of the activity.
  • DO ensure that the sports kit used fits properly and is in reasonably good condition.
    Why ? Ill-fitting clothes can restrict movement, flap about, catch on equipment or other objects, or even cause injury directly e.g. sore feet or blisters due to excessive friction from the wrong size of boots.
  • DON'T wear jewellery e.g. necklaces or earrings.
    Why ? Jewellery can be dangerous due to risk of catching on equipment, causing injury to the wearer or other players. Necklaces may present a risk of choking/strangulation, earrings present risk of damage to the ear lobe if caught and pulled sharply. There may also be a risk of losing valuable or treasured items of jewellery while participating in energetic activities over a wide area such as a playing field or sports course.


Know and follow the rules

Knowing, understanding and following the rules of sports and games is not only necessary for success in the sport or game but is also important for sports injury prevention.
In many cases the rules have been developed over time for many reasons including:

  • to test the skills, abilities and fitness of the players,
  • to ensure clarity and fair play
  • for the safety and protection of all involved.

Therefore another important way to avoid injuries when playing sports is to know and respect the rules and to follow the instructions of organizers, coaches, referees or whoever is in charge at the fixture or event.


Environmental Considerations

Pay attention to the playing area. This could be an outdoor pitch e.g. for football, indoor court e.g. for racquet sports, cycle track, swimming pool, boxing ring, horse riding arena or even a cross country course (for running or riding), among many other possibilities.
In general:

  • watch out for hazardous litter
  • note ground conditions - especially outside e.g. dangerously muddy or hard frosts, but also indoors e.g. if too slippery.
  • consider weather conditions - not just rain but also extreme heat or cold, wind, etc..

When the venue for an event is deemed unsuitable due to environmental hazards / issues organizers may need to postpone or cancel the activity if an alternative location cannot be arranged in time.

The above considerations for sports injury prevention are sometimes listed as "the 6 main criteria for avoiding sports injuries" but there are of course many more considerations that can be listed in more detail for specific sports or activities. This list is intended for approximately GCSE PE level (a UK qualification for 15-16 year olds that may not have equivalents in other countries). The numbers in the column on the left are just to show how many considerations for avoiding sports injuries are included. The order is not important.

This is the end of the page about sports injury prevention for GCSE Physical Education (GCSE PE). See also other pages in this section listed top-right and the effects of exercise on muscles and the effects of exercise on circulation.

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