You can’t go wrong by being strong! Strength training for sports injury prevention
You may be a talented rugby player, a novice marathon runner, a coach to a high school badminton player, a senior fitness enthusiast or a weekend warrior playing park football. Whichever example matches your profile, statistically you’ve either been injured yourself or have had to coach an individual through an injury. Although injuries are never completely unavoidable there are clear, evidenced-based are ways to reduce the risk.
Is there any evidence on the benefits of strength training for injury prevention?
The utilisation of strength training for injury prevention is not a new concept, but for some reason some coaches, trainers and athletes still don’t see it as a necessary addition to a workout plan. Recent high-quality studies have elucidated that incorporating strength training in athletic or fitness training decreases the risk and/or severity of injury over and above other modalities for injury prevention. A systematic review of all high-quality studies investigating the effect of various injury prevention strategies concluded strength training reduced acute sports injuries risk by 1/3 and the risk of overuse injuries by almost a half. Interestingly static stretching did not provide any meaningful injury prevention benefit1. Simply put, having a strong muscle is less likely to be injured than having a long muscle!
What is the physiological basis of strength training to reduce injury?
Resistance training provides dynamic loads on the body, creating physiological adaptive changes in the bone, muscle, and connective tissue (tendons and ligaments). Bone has an incredible ability to rebuild itself, so when a load is placed on bone it triggers a genetic expression to activate the cells that produce new bone, the bone is remodelled increasing its density and therefore making the bone stronger and more resilient. This decreases the chances of a future bone injury. As muscles, tendons, and ligaments are the support system of every joint, they are at high risk for being injured with the complex, dynamic movements associated with sports and exercise. Resistance training helps strengthen muscle and tendons, enabling them to resist and generate greater forces, while increasing the stability of the ligaments which decreases their risk of becoming injured.
How much resistance training needs to be included in a training program to be effective?
A recent systematic review asked this question. The authors concluded that there is a clear dose-response effect between strength training and its injury prevention effect. This means that the greater the volume and intensity of strength training undertaken the greater the injury preventative effects were experienced2. Also, the types of strength exercises performed did not have a significant influence on those preventative effects. A full-body resistance training regime is recommended to help lower this risk of injury in any athlete and improve your sports performance regardless of skill level and activity type. This may equate to 2-3 short sessions a week containing 4-6 exercises.
Building a strength training program to suit your needs
Your physiotherapist can specifically design a strength training program suitable for your fitness and sporting goals. We typically follow this process:
- Initial assessment: One on one consultation to understand your current fitness, lifestyle, needs and goals
- Training plan: A customised and detailed program aimed at helping you increase your strength and reduce the risk of injuries
- Progress review: A regular review to assess your progress and fine tune your training plan based on your body’s condition and latest goals
So start getting strong because you can’t go wrong!
Article by Michael Bushell, B.Sc. Physio (Aust); M. Manual Therapy (Aust); M.S.P.A. As an Australian Physiotherapy Association (APA) Titled Musculoskeletal Physiotherapist with over 24 years of clinical experience, Michael is a highly qualified physiotherapist with expert knowledge and skills in all areas of musculoskeletal and sports physiotherapy.
- Lauersen, Bertelsen & Andersen, The effectiveness of exercise interventions to prevent sports injuries: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials, 2014.
- Lauersen, Andersen & Andersen, Strength training as superior, dose-dependent and safe prevention of acute and overuse sports injuries: a systematic review, qualitative analysis and meta-analysis 2018