Half of all sports injuries are preventable

Knowledge of a number of sports is readily available, but why do we still see so many injuries? Kathrin Steffen, researcher at the Oslo Sports Trauma Research Center (OSTC), talks about experience in implementing injury-free exercises in training.

Youth in sports hall
The coach is the key to introducing injury prevention exercises. Photo: NIH

Injury prevention is often a difficult and boring topic, and everybody who is close to a practitioner needs to have a change of attitude. Coaches need to change their routines and change the way they organise training to ensure that it becomes injury-free.

In addition, the pressure on sport-specific training is high. Football and handball are sports both requiring a lot of stops and turns, hard tackles and innumerable jumps and landings. Swimming and cross-country skiing require repetitive movements with hours of rehearsal in technique. The best swimmers can swim up to 15 kilometres a day, which means about 2,500 revolutions of each shoulder.

As a coach you always want all your athletes to be healthy. Your task is to explain why and facilitate how they can best prepare for the activity ahead of them. Only in this way can everyone perform best at their level and at the same time keep themselves free from injury.

More robust athletes

Trine Stensrud, an avid “mother trainer” and NIH employee, gained the confidence of handball coaches and has been a physical trainer for teams of girls from 8-9 years and up to 17-18 years of age. Her training programs are age group adapted and include a lot of play-based activities at the beginning, with training runs out on forest tracks full of rocks and roots and on downhill slopes, as well as in the gym to challenge their motor skills, such as balance and body control.

As the girls get older, training sessions from Skadefri have been increasingly taken into use, in addition to the girls continuing to work out one day a week.

For the young handball talent in Stabæk and Haslum, it has been a matter of course to include performance-enhancing or injury-prevention training, as these are laid out in Skadefri. Unfortunately, this is not how it is in all the clubs.

“It's frustrating”

Thanks to Trine Stensrud, Stabæk and Haslum handball have had injury prevention training in place in their systems from when the players were young. The players in Trine’s training groups are careful not to just train with the ball. Physical exercise is just as important and the goal is 40 percent handball, the same amount of physical training and 20 percent matches.

“You get to be more robust and can handle more”, says one of the 18-year-old handball players.

The coach is the key

Coaches are key people that we need to convince if, as researchers and clinicians, we are going to succeed in implementing and establishing – in other words, selling – warm-ups with a focus on injury prevention and performance improvement in the daily training schedule.

The coach’s own motivation is crucial, but those doing the training and their parents also have a voice. The parents need to be interested in having their children free from injury as much as possible, and that they are enthusiastic about lengthy and healthy sporting activity. Parents can have an impact on the training. At the same time, the National Sports Federations need to motivate coaches to take courses and receive education.

Start early

Injury prevention training, backed up by versatile motor skills training and play, is something everyone can and should do in both organised and free sports. Multifaceted training lays down a foundation for the prevention of sports injuries and is important for the development of stable athletes from childhood and throughout their adult life.

Research-based knowledge available on your mobile

It is a well-documented fact that injuries are reduced by proper strength, coordination and technique training, especially in respect of handball and football, but with some sports-related facilitation, knowledge in these subject areas can be carried over into many other sports. The incidence of knee and ankle injuries can be halved by means of structured warm-up programs. When it comes to individual exercises, the “Nordic Hamstring Exercise” can reduce the risk of strained hamstrings by 85 percent!

The groin exercise “Copenhagen adductor” is another sunshine story. Groin injuries can be reduced by 41 percent with just one exercise!

Skadefri.no is a website and a free app (currently only available in Norwegian, but for both Android and IOS/Iphone) designed for trainers, performers, parents, students, and all of you others who are interested in physical activity and training. The goal is to provide you with practical and user-oriented information on sports injuries and prevention of same.