This time of year marks the beginning of pre- season training for many sports. So now is the perfect time to build a good injury prevention program, to enable your best, injury free performance throughout the season!

‘It takes a minimum of 6 weeks to see changes in the condition of a muscle after exercise’.

Although accidents happen and you can never guarantee an injury won’t occur, we do know that different sports are more susceptible to different injuries due to their physical demands. For example, we tend to see a lot of ankle injuries, foot pain, knee ligament injuries (ACL) and meniscal tears in netball, basketball, soccer and football due to the fast paced, sudden change in direction and high impact nature of the games. By identifying the risk factors involved in each sport, you can reduce them by implementing training and prevention strategies that involve sport specific strengthening and neuromuscular control.  Some of these risk factors may include- reduced flexibility, muscle strength, power, endurance, stability, balance/ coordination or aerobic fitness.

As well as injury prevention, pre season training allows you to develop necessary ‘match fitness’. This time of year many athletes are returning to their sport after well deserved holidays over the summer period, in turn this may mean you are not as conditioned as you were previously. And, even if during your relaxing holiday you did hit the gym regularly it may not be preparing you for the specific demands and nature of your sport. You need to prepare the body for what’s coming.

For example, it makes no sense swimming in preparation for a soccer game – the type of exercises you do needs to mimic what would happen in a game.  Likewise, running 10km is useful for general fitness, but to really be ‘match fit’ the preparation needs to involve things like stop/start running, changing directions and kicking-type movements.

If you’re starting from scratch, here are a few general fitness tips to get you started!

> A preseason program should last at least 6 weeks. Endurance fitness requires at least 6 weeks of training to achieve and an appropriate level of fitness. It is important to understand this time frame and to start your training at least 6 weeks before the season begins as rushing or shortening your preseason will increase your risk of injury.

> Building training intensity gradually – rest and recovery is also important. Jumping into 5 days a week of training is not giving your body enough time to recover.

> Preseason is also the perfect time to target your areas which are prone to injury. For example if ankle injuries are common, working on ankle stability may be something to add into every session leading up to the beginning of the season.