A Physio and Dietitian's Guide to Staying Injury Free (8 Top Tips)

Featuring Chris Hitchins

Sports Scientist and Physiotherapist for Athletic and Sports Performance

If you play sport, you've probably been injured in some shape or form. An injury is not a good time. I can set you back weeks to months on your training progress.

As a dietitian I know how much of an impact nutrition has on injury prevention, however, I was curious as to the physical factors that put you at risk of an injury so I asked one of my favourite physics to give us the run down!

In this article I've combined the most important nutrition and physical factors for staying injury free and in the game. Read on...

1. Do the basics well (Chris & Hannah)

Focus on how you train, technique, consistency, nutrition quality, hydration and sleep (more on these soon). Remember that supplements and recovery modalities are extra, and don't make up for deficits and the basics.

Food perfect for post training. Banana and pancakes and yoghurt.

2. Make sure you are eating enough! (Hannah)

Many people aren't meeting their basic calorie needs. When your body is in too large of an energy deficit, your body goes into 'power-saving mode' where everything slows down. Your normal hormonal communication changes, bones become weaker, your immune system crashes and your body cannot properly recover post training. When athletes don't eat enough we see increased fatigue, sickness and more injuries.

3. Supplement your sport specific training with strength training (Chris)

Obviously to excel at your sport you need a very specific and tailored program. However, your body functions as a whole unit and neglecting certain parts of your body puts those weak points at risk of injury. Strengthen your full body to reduce injury rates by increasing injury tissue capacity and resilience.

4. Hit that high quality protein (Hannah)

Protein provides your body with the building blocks it needs to heal and produce new muscles and connective tissues. Proteins also play essential roles in your immune system. Everyone will have different protein needs, however, try to have some form of protein at every meal and snack. Animal protein sources (e.g. dairy, eggs, meat, fish etc) or protein shakes have the full range of amino acids that your body isn't able to produce itself. It is important to consume enough of these amino acids from food each day so that your body can recover properly and get stronger.

Women with weights for strength training.

5. Progress gradually (Chris)

To get better, you need to keep pushing your body past the point it is comfortable. The key is to not go too fast! Slowly increase your training/competition load by increasing the duration, frequency, intensity and switching up the type of exercises/training. The rate that you are able to increase this will depend on your age, training history, health and injury history.

6. Refuel with protein and carbs (Hannah)

After training is also a key time to hit that protein. Try having a protein + carb snack within 30-40mins post session. This could be a Chobani yoghurt, milk, protein shake or your next meal with some meat. Your muscles are most receptive to the fresh proteins within this window and will get straight to work with using those building blocks to heal the damaged tissue.

Track and Field athlete sprinting

7. Sports specific injury prevention programs (Chris)

Many popular sports have exercise programs designed to specifically address the common injuries from that sport. For example, the FIFA11+ program has ben able to reduce the incidence of hamstring and adductor strains, and even non-contact ACL injuries. Suss out whats around and designed specifically for your sport.

8. Don't try to do everything yourself

Good clinicians and coaches spend years learning all there is to know in their respective fields. Even as practitioners with an interest and some level of knowledge across fields we utilise each others services. I have seen Chris for physio and Chris has come to see me for nutrition. I also train with an exercise scientist and get back double the value for every dollar I have spent. Surround yourself with a good team who works together on your goals to focus on what you want to do best - performing.