Every athlete knows that recovering from injuries can be difficult. Missing out on training, watching your team lose — or win — the big game without you, not to mention the physical pain of rehab. What if you didn’t get injured in the first place?
Injury prevention or “prehab” has become an important part of being an elite-level athlete in this day and age. Long gone are the days where you could eat what you wanted or smoke and drink between periods; enter the age of the nutrition and specific body management — even down to the youth level.
Debbie Yeboah, a fifth-year senior of the Vikes women’s basketball team, says that the most common injuries she sees in basketball are concussions and knee injuries. She provides some insight into how to maintain a healthy body throughout the season. Yeboah, who has never suffered a major injury (knock on wood), is a prime example of body management.
“Weights help; they help get your body balanced so you don’t have a super strong lower body but weak up top. It’s basically about staying balanced,” Yeboah says.
Injury prevention programs are typically centred around muscle development and flexibility. Much like recovering from an injury, if you can build up muscle strength and flexibility, you can avoid injuries of overuse. Obviously, flukes can happen, but the better you are prepared, the less likely you are to suffer a major injury.
Kim Lobb, Vikes basketball alum, says, “Putting people through sport-specific tests, like watching people run or watching them do a few things in their sport, you can pick up movement faults and identify risks for injury.”
Lobb, a registered physiotherapist, played ball for the blue and gold from 1998–2002. After doing a master’s degree in physiotherapy at the University of Alberta, Lobb eventually moved back to Victoria and started working with high-performance athletes.
Injury prevention doesn’t stop in the weight room or at the physio clinic. One of the best ways to prevent injuries is to lead an all-around healthy lifestyle. Monitoring nutrition and sleep is a surefire way to get your body ready to compete at the highest level. As we saw in an earlier column, sleep is necessary to your reaction time and energy level. Nutrition plays a role as well.
Yeboah says, “I think eating well is important. Just getting food in you and not working out on an empty stomach.”
As far as sleep goes, Yeboah says, “It’s when people are tired; that is when [injuries] happen. It’s always the last minute or the last scrimmage. You start to get sloppy when you are tired.”
UVic offers a class on care and prevention of athletic injury. The course, offered in the Exercise science, Physical and Health Education (EPHE) faculty, gives students a chance to understand the importance of injury prevention. The class even provides a 40-hour practical experience section, which matches up each student with a university squad to get hands-on training experience.
Lobb, a graduate of UVic’s Kinesiology program, now works with athletes at Shelbourne Physiotherapy. Working on functional movements and specific stretches are the best way to help athletes prevent injury.
“Proper hydration is super important. Dehydration leads to fatigue and fatigue leads to injury,” Lobb says. “Proper off-season conditioning, being well rested and … basically making sure athletes are ready for competition.”