There is no doubt that exercise and playing sport are good for your health but not treating injuries correctly can have serious negative implications on your well-being.
Osteoarthritis is the number one cause of disability in Ireland and is expected to grow annually to epidemic proportions by 2020. It is caused by general wear and tear but also damage to the joints - a large share of which is happening on our playing fields and athletics tracks.
According to research conducted by St Vincent’s Hospital and Arthritis Ireland, players of high impact sports, such as GAA, rugby and soccer, are ten times more likely to end up with arthritis than the general population.
The findings of the study also show:
- Sportsmen (65%) experience high levels of pain and stiffness compared to the general population (10%).
- The pain and stiffness was worse after training and made life uncomfortable, interfering with mild everyday activities, such as walking and golf in 46% of sportsmen.
- More than 70% of sportsmen are highly concerned about arthritis but have very low levels of knowledge on how to manage it.
There is no sure way to avoid injury while playing sport but there are a number of little steps you can take that will limit your risk of getting injured and help prevent any long term joint damage.
Tips to keep your joints fit and healthy:
1. Train sensibly: Always warm up before exercising and ensure your muscles and joints are well stretched.
2. Always wear the right gear: Keep joints healthy by wearing sensible training shoes that are comfortable, a good fit and offer sufficient support.
3. Cooling down: Cooling down is just as important as warming up. Make sure you do your cool down exercises after play.
4. Eat healthy: Keep to a balanced diet with plenty of fruit and vegetables. Make sure you’re body is well hydrated by drinking lots of water.
5. Have fun: Your body is more relaxed when you are enjoying yourself so you are less likely to pull a muscle.
So you have an injury:
Unfortunately taking every precaution in the world cannot guarantee that you won’t suffer an injury and the chances are you will gets plenty of hard knocks if you play high impact sport. You need to be prepared for when an injury occurs so you can limit long term damage.
Quick action when an accident occurs, whether it’s a soft tissue injury (sprain or strain) or a bone injury can reduce pain and swelling.
- Rest: Reduce or stop using the injured area for 48 hours.
- Ice: Apply a cold pack or a cold wet towel filled with crushed ice on the injured area for ten minutes at a time, four to eight times a day,
- Compression: Compression of an injured joint may reduce swelling. Use elastic wraps, air cast or splints. Ask your doctor which is best.
- Elevation: Keep the injured area elevated above the level of the heart.
Always RESPECT THE PAIN BARRIER. Pain is the body’s signal to stop and rest. Continuing to play can worsen the injury and increase recovery time.
Sometimes an injury will not be able to heal properly naturally and surgery may be required. However, taking the decision to have any kind of surgery is no small matter. If the pain and mobility problems you are experiencing are seriously affecting your independence and quality of life then it is definitely an option that should be considered. There is a lot to weigh up and find out about before making the decision. You can find out more in our Surgery information booklet.
If your damaged joint does develop osteoarthritis there are a wide range of options available for you to manage it. You can find out more about the condition in our Living with Osteoarthritis information booklet.