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Are we seeing more injuries in local sport than normal?

If you are involved with team sports you might have noticed an increased amount of injuries happening during both training sessions and games. With another wave of COVID sweeping across town as well as the “super flu”, and the regular cold, our consistency on the training track and general health has been severely impacted.

It’s not only the impact on the respiratory system that these types of illnesses have on the body, but also reducing the functionality of the musculoskeletal and neurological system as well. 

When our body is spending energy elsewhere, such as when it is fighting off an illness, other parts of the body can become neglected, meaning that we are potentially more susceptible from suffering a major injury if we are not cautious.

While it is often ok and recommended to do some light physical activity when you are sick to enhance the immune-exercise response, training and playing at high intensities could potentially result in severe damage as well as push back our recovery time from the initial illness. 

When we are sick, we need to know:

  • how our body is affected
  • how to manage our sickness with physical activity
  • how to recover if we do suffer an injury as a result of being sick

How our body is affected:

  • Impacted Sleep

Sleep is arguably one of the biggest predictors and contriubtors to injury. For example,  individuals who have less than 7 hours of sleep increase the chance of suffering an injury, then when that lack of sleep extends over 14 days, chances of injury rise to 1.7x the normal amount. While suffering from an illness, our sleep is often negatively impacted by it being interrupted. From getting up in the middle of the night, being restless, having cold sweats, there are many ways in which being sick influences our sleep patterns. 

  • Nutritional Deficits

Fueling with the appropriate macro and micro nutrients to provide energy and help fight off the infection can be hard when we are sick. Appetite is usually impacted meaning that we don’t consume near enough food to balance out how much energy we are using on fighting off the illness. 

  • Dehydration

Part of the immune system’s response in fighting off illness is to increase water consumption by certain organs as well as using our fluids to regulate body temperature and attempt to flush out the infection. 

  • Strain on the Musculoskeletal System 

Activity within both our muscles and bones are impacted by onset of illness. Due to the requirement for more priority based organs to receive energy, the musculoskeletal system takes a back seat. This means that activation of specific muscles to help produce and absorb force will be done with decreased effectiveness. 

  • Delayed Nervous System Firing

As our system undergoes a microorganism scale fight with external germs, the nervous system which is responsible for controlling all aspects of the body is unable to regulate itself and therefore is under direct stress. This results in the control of the body as a whole to be negatively impacted, lowering the overall ability to perform simple or complex skills, many of which are required to perform physical activity to the highest level. 

How to manage our sickness:

  • Prioritize recovery

Taking time off training and competition when ill is required. Putting the body under increased stress levels and adding to the fitness-fatigue deficit even more is the worse thing that you can do. Ensuring that sleep and general rest is of the highest priority for long enough will allow the body to heal itself in an efficient way. 

  • Manipulate your training schedule

Once you return back from the illness, changing your overall intensity, volume and frequency of training is critical. If you have taken a week off all physical activity, it’s unfair to think that you are able to return to 100% effort immediately. Take the return slowly, ensuring that you warm up in an effective manner before slowly re-introducing the main parts of the session.
Having a week off training and then attempting to play on the weekend after being ill is not recommended. 

  • Correct your nutritional and fluid intake

Consuming a balanced diet full of essential macro and micronutrients post illness is another critical step to returning to physical activity. Once appetite and fluid regulation is back to normal, fueling for performance and optimal recovery should become priority. This might be returning your diet to what you were originally consuming prior to being sick, or it’s a good opportunity to reflect on your nutritional habits and potentially add more nutrition dense foods. 

  • Communicate with your Coach & Team

Open communication channels with your coach is encouraged. If you have been unwell, unable to train and a coach calls you up to play on the weekend, not only are you a chance of risking serious injury but you are also at risk of letting your side down if you did get injured. Remember in return to play, we want to prioritize returning to our healthy state as much as possible before returning to play to reduce the risk of injury. 

How to recover from an injury post illness: 

  • Seek guidance immediately

Diagnosis is an important step post any injury, let alone one suffered after being in a weakened unhealthy state. Seeking out appropriate allied health or medical services will then allow for a plan to be created. Often, it will be to return to a healthy state while slowly integrating the rehabilitation process. 

  • Don’t rush back

Listen to your body and be guided by professional help. Just like increased injury rates after being sick, rehabilitation can be delayed due the exact same principles mentioned above. The rehabilitation process might be extended a week or two and as annoying as this may be, for the sake of your long term athletic performance, it is necessary. 

Interested in a more detailed return to play process? Check out the following Return to Play post COVID recommendations. 

Stage 1
0-7 Days during Isolation
-Activities of Daily Living
Stage 4
6-7 Days Post COVID Isolation period
Increased Intensity of Training
-Normal sport training sessions, regular gym programming in prescribed HR
Heart Rate stays below 90% of your Max Heart Rate
Stage 2 
1-3 Days Post COVID Isolation Period
Light physical activity.
-Cycling, jogging, BW gym sessions.
 Heart Rate stays below 70% of your Max Heart Rate
Stage 5
7+ Days Post COVID Isolation Period
Resume full training sessions and gym sessions
Stage 3
4-5 Days Post COVID Isolation Period
Increased frequency and Duration of Training
-Reduced sport training sessions, regular gym programming in prescribed HR
Heart Rate stays below 80% of your Max Heart Rate
Return to Sport 

So remember, look after yourself and encourage your teammates to do the same if they are or have been unwell. 

If you are injured and need a plan to get back to performance, book a physio appointment here ​​https://radcentre.com.au/physio-ballarat/