We know as well as anyone that when the sun comes out, New Zealand’s serious and not so serious athletes kick into action. While winter football codes still have tens of thousands of participants in this country, the warmer months see even more people dust off their summer sporting gear and get back into their favourite activity. More people means more injuries, and many of them come to our clinics seeking physio in Auckland.
According to statistics, and our personal experience, the most common summer sports injuries in New Zealand are ankle, knee, elbow and shoulder sprains. This is followed by ligament injuries, broken bones, concussions, neck or lower back strains, and heat-related illnesses.
Many injuries, including some of those we’ve just listed above, occur because people are a little too eager to resume their favourite summer activity. Those who have taken a break over the winter months tend to forget they are not at the same fitness level they were at the end of last summer. Stopping activity over winter sees the body lose condition and summer sports enthusiasts are rarely in the best shape when they start the new season – and that’s when sprains, strains and other painful injuries are most likely to occur.
Instead of going hard out straight away, it’s best to gradually increase activity duration and intensity over a period of four to six weeks. As an example, start with 30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise three days a week, and eventually work up to 45 minutes four to five days a week. Any exercise you do should include elements of the sport you’ll be doing – for example, if you’re a surfer, concentrate on shoulder flexibility and balance. Tennis or touch footy players may want to work on sprints from standing starts. Golfers may want to focus on hip and lower back conditioning to improve their swing and reduce the risk of injuries in these key areas.
It’s also a good idea at this time to revisit your stretching regime and other exercises that increase your strength, mobility and flexibility – these are all key factors when preparing for summer. And if you haven’t replaced your sporting footwear in a while, it may be time to do just that; many foot, ankle and lower leg injuries are caused by footwear that no longer provides the support and stability it should.
Of course, sports injuries can still occur in summer, regardless of all the precautions you take, and we’re always here to get you mobile again. But those precautions will greatly minimise the chances of injuries occurring in the first place so, this year, we recommend you pay more attention to your pre-season build-up than ever before.