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Sports Injury Prevention

Don’t let an injury keep you on the sidelines. In many cases, the key to avoiding sports-related injuries, or the recurrence of an old injury, is prevention. Following a few simple guidelines can help keep you in the game and free of preventable injuries.

Factors that may assist in preventing injuries:

  • Warm up - The purpose of a warm up is to prepare your body for exercise. The best guideline for the intensity of your warm up is to produce mild sweating without fatigue. Keep in mind that the effect of your warm up will last 30-45 minutes, so it is important not to warm up too early.
  • Stretching - A good time to stretch your muscles is both after your warm up and after your training and exercise. A stretch is done slowly to the point of increased tension without being painful. Hold a stretch for 30-60 seconds and complete three repetitions for each stretch. As the position is held, your muscle will relax and allow you to stretch a little further. More information on proper stretching technique and tips is available in Memorial Hermann’s online health library.
  • Taping and or Bracing - This method of injury prevention is used to restrict undesired, potentially harmful motion while still allowing desired motion. Examples: taping for ankle sprains; knee bracing to control medial/lateral movement but allowing flexion/extension; and wrist splints.
  • Protective Equipment - Buying and wearing protective equipment specific to your sport is a good investment. Whether it is a helmet or elbow pads, make sure that the equipment is worn and secured correctly to take full advantage of its protective qualities.
  • Appropriate Training - Preventing injury also includes training specific to the sport in which you participate. All elements of training should be directed towards improving performance in your given sport. For example, there is no advantage for a weightlifter to do large amounts of endurance training and similarly there is no advantage for an endurance athlete to spend any considerable training time on strength training.
  • Adequate Recovery - Rest and recovery is essential for getting the most out of your sports training and preventing injury. Inadequate recovery leads to impaired performance with associated symptoms such as tiredness and lethargy. It is common for individuals to label these symptoms as evidence of lack of fitness, so be careful. Monitor your early morning heart rate. Successive increases in early morning heart rate are associated with impaired performance and tiredness is an indication to reduce your training load or even rest completely, for a day or two.
  • Psychological Recovery - Insufficient recovery between training sessions can lead to an increase in resting heart rate, poor appetite, muscle tiredness and inability to sleep. Techniques that can aid in psychological recovery include massage, spas or whirlpools, warm baths and showers, music, visualization, relaxation tapes and breathing techniques.

Nutrition and Injury Prevention

There is evidence of skeletal muscle breakdown as a result of continued intense training, especially in the presence of inadequate carbohydrate intake. An ideal training diet for individuals, especially endurance athletes, requires 60-70 percent of energy to be taken in as carbohydrate and less than 30 percent as fat. Some individuals may find it difficult to eat enough carbohydrate to replenish their stores and may benefit from consuming carbohydrates in liquid form.

Water constitutes approximately 60 percent of the human body so maintaining adequate fluid intake is essential for optimal athletic performance. Inadequate hydration has been shown to result in compromised blood flow to working muscles. During exercise, thirst is an unreliable guide for determining when to drink fluid. The most practical method of ensuring adequate fluid replacement during and after exercise is through regular assessment of body weight, especially early in the training program. Each 0.5 kg lost should be replaced with 500 ml of fluid.

Follow this guide to ensure adequate hydration:

Before exercise (2 hours before activity)

Drink 500 ml of cold water.

10-15 minutes before activity: Drink up to 600 ml of cold drink or a carbohydrate-electrolyte sports drink.

During exercise

During endurance activities, consume a dilute (less than 10 percent) of carbohydrate fluid at regular intervals.

After exercise

Immediately after exercise, cool water or sweetened beverages should be consumed. (Sweetened beverages may stimulate thirst rather than quenching it, thereby encouraging you to drink more).

For athletes that train at high intensities or at high temperatures, drink beverages with dilute amounts of sodium to improve rehydration. Athletes that train extensively on a regular basis, in addition to sodium, should ingest carbohydrate as soon as possible.