Preventing Injuries in Athletes

Sports are a big part of many families’ lives. Hello, Friday Night Lights season.

Subsequently, so are sports related injuries.

When the athlete in your family gets hurt doing the physical activity they love, it can be scary and extremely difficult to handle. Athletes want to be on their fields of play, so when they are down for the count, it impacts their mood and their self-esteem. And when you’re a parent and it’s your child that gets hurt, all you want to do is see them get better, not get hurt again and get back to the activities that are both good for them physically and emotionally.

The harsh reality is that all athletes are at risk of an injury. It’s part of the risk of running down a field chasing a ball with a stick or training your body to run dozens of miles or donning protective gear to be able to Pediatric Servicesbetter handle the blow of a tackle.

Injuries can come in the form of sprains, strains, stress fractures, tendonitis and more.

There are steps, though, that every athlete, and every parent, can take to help prevent injuries – and physical therapists can help.

STEP 1: Make your own appointment, or an appointment for your child, with a physical therapist near you.

A physical therapist will check your flexibility, strength and muscle endurance before beginning physical activity to make sure you are able to participate. They can identify flaws in the way an athlete moves that may cause injuries in the future, and they’ll correct bio-mechanical problems in form and posture. Finally, they’ll provide an appropriate training plan to minimize the risks of injury and help an athlete move forward in their goals.

STEP 2: Follow the training plan set up by your physical therapist.

Training plans developed by physical therapists after an evaluation are custom to each patient and highly individualized. Not flexible enough at the hips? There’s an exercise for that. Not able to squat down without bending over at the waist? There are exercises you can do to help.

A physical therapist-prescribed training plan typically includes conditioning exercises to strengthen the muscles used while in play, stretching exercises to include flexibility and movements that train the proper techniques of the sport of the patient.

For example, female soccer players are particularly prone to anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries, and a study of NCAA Division 1 female soccer players showed participation in an injury prevention program designed by physical therapists lowered the ACL injury rate by 41 percent.

This injury prevention program, like many others constructed by physical therapists for athletes, consisted of sports-specific agility exercises that strengthened the muscles around the ACL and counteracted incorrect existing patterns of movements that may have been causing more damage to the body.

Step 3: Keep your physical therapist on speed dial through the sport’s season.

While we can’t all have private physical therapists giving us intensive daily attention like some professional athletes, we can take charge of our bodies and make sure we’re performing our physical activities correctly to stop injuries from depleting us.

Note: Most of the clinicians with Tidewater Physical Therapy hold Direct Access Certifications with the state of Virginia, allowing them to treat a patient without the prescription or referral from a physician. Tidewater Physical Therapy’s team can help explain this Virginia law if you have any questions and want to make your own appointment. Visit to find a clinic near you to learn more.

APTA: How to Avoid Overtraining Injuries
The American Academy of Pediatrics’ 2015 Sports Injury Prevention Tip Sheet
APTA: PTs: Appropriate Exercise Can Help Prevent ACL Injuries in Females