In past editions of Injury Prevention for Athletes, we have detailed important attributes in properly warming-up and cooling-down the body prior to and following exercise. We have also highlighted critical elements in building an effective physical conditioning program that is unique to individual performance goals. Both of these categories are fundamental in developing as an athlete and ensuring injury free athletic performance. Just as important as the previously described principles are in preventing athletic injuries, so is the technique and equipment utilized in performing any type of athletic exercise. Perfecting technique and utilizing appropriate equipment can be a critical component in keeping your body free of injury.
Proper technique establishes a foundation for athletic excellence. Perfecting technique, as it relates to athletic performance, is the act of learning, applying and improving optimal and safe movement patterns in order to perform sport-specific exercises effectively and without injury. Perfecting technique can be approached from a variety of different capacities, but should always be specifically tailored to an individual athlete and should match the mechanical demands of the sport. Poor or improper form can easily place enormous stress on muscles, tendons and bones and can greatly increase the likelihood of sports-related injury. The weight room is one significant example where uneducated athletes can easily demonstrate poor form while using an unsafe level of weight. It’s critical to become familiar with the equipment utilized and perfect the movement patterns associated with any training or athletic purpose. Coaches, trainers and athletic center employees are a great resource should you not know the proper movement techniques associated with a certain exercise.
While this may seem elementary and of basic understanding for most athletes, utilizing appropriate and sport-specific equipment can greatly decrease the likelihood of obtaining an athletic injury. Such equipment may include safety gear in which an athlete wears; these items may include helmets, mouth guards, protective padding, and appropriate footwear. It is important to note that these items should be well fitted, free of any damage or defects and in good working condition in order to be effective at preventing injury. Other equipment may include the items used in game-time activity, training and for conditioning purposes. Such items may include the general sport-specific equipment utilized (such as a baseball bat or tennis racket) as well as items that are not sport-specific, such as weight equipment. Ensuring that all items used when exercising are safe, damage free and in working condition can help prevent both traumatic and over-use athletic injuries.
Mastering a skill within competitive play can take years, and even a lifetime of commitment and effort in order to perfect the fundamental skills and technique required for various competition conditions. Yet, focusing on basic movement principles while using appropriate equipment will not only increase performance levels, but will lower the likelihood of obtaining an injury that could potentially damage the remainder of your season.
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