Preventing Sports-Related Injuries with Physiotherapy!

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Preventing Sports-Related Injuries with Physiotherapy!


Whether you’re semi-pro or playing pick-up on a Wednesday night at the rec center, odds are that you may have sustained an injury to some degree throughout your sport-playing days. For many, injuries are understood to just be “part of the game”. Although there is truth to this, there is also something to be said for injury prevention measures in sports. Regardless of the type of sport, injuries can be both physically and mentally debilitating for athletes. Being sidelined for extended periods and missing crucial time to either compete or focus on training can impact both individual and team success, and may pose implications for future participation. There is some good news, though! With the right strategies in place, many of these sports-related injuries can be prevented or mitigated to some extent! One of the most crucial components of injury prevention in sports is physiotherapy. In this article, we’ll delve into the significant role that physiotherapy plays in keeping athletes both in the game and on top of their game. This blog post will highlight general risk factors that may contribute to higher prevalence of injury in sports, and discuss the different means by which physiotherapy can help mitigate or prevent sports injuries. 

If Injuries Are Part of the Game, Why Bother?

Injuries are an unfortunate reality in the world of sports. From minor strains to serious ligament tears, these injuries may be painful and hinder performance in the short-term, but  may also pose more serious long-term implications. Mobility impairments, arthritis, recurrence and chronicity are some examples of longer-term consequences of sports-related injury, and these may reduce one’s ability to engage in sports in a pain-free, low-risk manner. As such, investing in injury prevention measures is paramount for both athletes and sports teams.  

Using a multidimensional approach of exercise, education, and rehabilitation, physiotherapy can play a pivotal role in managing and preventing sports injuries. Physiotherapy aims to help identify and address underlying biomechanical imbalances, weaknesses, or movement dysfunctions that predispose athletes to injury, and correspondingly target these disparities to improve stability, flexibility, movement efficiency and strength in order to better meet the demands of an athlete’s given sport. The key to reducing injury is through modifying risk factors if able.

Risk Factors

It is important to note that with each sport’s unique physical demands (types/planes of movement and biomechanical loads), the risk factors may differ slightly. The following list includes general risk factors for people participating in sports (i.e., without specific consideration of any one particular sport or physical activity). Sports-related injuries can result from a combination of intrinsic and extrinsic risk factors. Some of these, like age and previous injury history, for example, are non-modifiable risk factors. When targeting injury prevention strategies, physiotherapy aims to reduce injury by targeting modifiable risk factors. 


INTRINSIC RISK FACTORS: Factors internal to or within the individual

  • Biological & Genetic Factors:
  • Age and developmental stage
  • Biological sex
  • Previous injury and medical history 
  • Congenital anatomical deformities 
  • Anthropometric measures (height, body mass, limb length)
  • Muscle fiber type distribution, pennation angles
  • Biomechanical Factors (anthropometric measures will influence these):
  • Movement mechanics (running gait, landing mechanics, etc.)
  • Ground reaction forces 
  • Force production during movement
  • Current Level of Fitness: 
  • Muscle imbalances
  • Flexibility and mobility
  • Neuromuscular control and coordination 
  • Balance and stability 
  • Nutrition and Hydration 
  • Psychological Factors and Psychosocial Factors 


EXTRINSIC RISK FACTORS: Factors external to or outside the individual

  • Physical Demands of the Sport: 
  • Repetitive / unique movements, external loads, contact/collision with other players
  • Training Errors (e.g., overtraining, insufficient / inexistent warm-up prior to activity)
  • Equipment:
  • Footwear 
  • Protective equipment (e.g., helmet) 
  • Environment (e.g., training / playing surfaces, weather)
  • Training Workloads 

#1: Preventive Assessment and Screening:

A key aspect of physiotherapy in sports injury prevention is conducting comprehensive assessments and screenings. By evaluating an athlete’s movement patterns, flexibility, strength, and stability, physiotherapists can identify potential risk factors and areas for improvement. These assessments enable tailored prevention strategies to be implemented, reducing the likelihood of injury occurrence due to factors such as compromised movement patterns, lack of flexibility, muscle strength imbalances and insufficiency, or joint instability. It is through this phase wherein a physiotherapist would also ask questions to learn more about the athlete’s medical history. For example, are we looking at compromised movement patterns of a joint which has never previously been injured or one which has undergone multiple injuries and surgery? Obtaining medical histories from athletes may help highlight areas which the physiotherapist may want to work on improving. Screening measures may range from eye test functional movement screens to objective range of motion measurements using a goniometer, to higher-tech assessment tools such as force plates, 3D movement captures, or active markers. 

#2: Developing Individualized Training Programs:

Based on the findings of the assessments, physiotherapists work closely with athletes to design personalized training programs which are not only specific to the athlete’s sport but to them as individuals. These programs often include exercises to improve strength, flexibility, balance, and coordination, targeting specific areas of weakness or instability. By addressing these deficits, athletes can enhance their physical resilience and reduce the risk of injury during training and competition. For example, a physiotherapist working with a swimmer who has poor shoulder mobility would likely focus on improving shoulder flexibility, power and overhead end-range strength as these are key drivers of effective swimming mechanics.

#3: Education and Injury Prevention Strategies:

In addition to exercise prescription, physiotherapists play a crucial role in educating athletes about injury prevention strategies. This may involve teaching proper warm-up and cool-down techniques, emphasizing the importance of adequate rest and recovery, and providing guidance on injury-specific prevention measures. Coaches may not always be the most knowledgeable when it comes to injury prevention management and organizing training, and as such, athletes may not always be receiving the most suitable information.  By empowering athletes with knowledge and skills, physiotherapists enable them to take an active role in safeguarding their health and well-being.

#4: Implementing Injury Prevention Protocols:

Physiotherapists also collaborate with sports teams and coaching staff to implement injury prevention protocols. This may include integrating specific warm-up routines, incorporating injury prevention exercises into training sessions, allocating training sessions to specifically target injury prevention, and establishing guidelines for safe and effective training practices. By fostering a culture of injury prevention within the team environment, athletes may better understand their sport’s movements, their goals of training, and the importance of physiotherapy. Most importantly, these injury prevention protocols may serve to reduce injury prevalence and/or frequency and keep players in the game. 

For example, the FIFA 11+ is an effective warm-up protocol implemented by many soccer teams as it has demonstrated effects in reducing both injury frequency and severity among soccer athletes (with results also repeated to some degree of success in other sports). The FIFA 11+ consists of a combination of core stabilization, dynamic stabilization, proprioceptive exercises, plyometrics, and eccentric hamstring loading. 


#5 Monitoring and Rehabilitation:

In the event of an injury, physiotherapists play a pivotal role in the rehabilitation process. Through targeted interventions such as manual therapy, therapeutic exercises, and modality use, physiotherapy aims to facilitate optimal recovery and return to sport. Monitoring and follow-up help ensure that athletes progress safely through the rehabilitation process, reducing the risk of encountering setbacks. Working with a physiotherapist post-injury may help reduce the potential of recurrence and chronicity, which can keep an athlete sidelined further.


Physiotherapy can play a pivotal role in sports injury prevention, offering a holistic approach to keeping athletes healthy, resilient, and performing at their best. By screening and addressing biomechanical imbalances, developing tailored training programs, educating athletes, and implementing injury prevention protocols, physiotherapists play a key role in promoting the well-being of athletes and enhancing their longevity in sport. Through proactive intervention, physiotherapy minimizes the risk of injury to help athletes stay in the game and maximize their potential for success. As they say, the best ability is availability

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As experts in movement, injury management, and injury prevention, we are here to help you reduce your risk of sports-related injury! Whether playing recreationally or competitively, our team is ready to help you stay in the game – no matter what sport you play! 

Visit us or call us at 519-942-8884 today to book with your neighborhood wellness clinic and let our team of specialized health professionals help you get back to being you!

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