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As athletes, one of the most challenging moments is when an injury prevents you from training, or hinders your ability to compete at the desired level. Athletes, runners, and fitness enthusiasts alike all share this frustration, and with more people taking part in sports today than ever before, understanding how to prevent these injuries is crucial.

First, train regularly so that you are in a physical condition suitable enough for the sport you wish to play. Embracing the “weekend warrior” mentality puts you at a greater risk of sustaining an injury, as dedicating just one or two days a week to a sport does not offer enough physical activity. Athletes who train consistently and understand proper techniques are much less likely to hurt themselves.

If you wish to take up a new sport, research the proper training methods that are suggested beforehand to prepare your body. Following the proper conditioning protocols for any specific sport reduces the likelihood of injuries. Additionally, engaging in the sport itself should not be relied on as the only method to improve your physical condition.

For contact sports especially, never stray from the rulebook. These rules are set in place to keep players safe. The NFL, for example, has recently come under fire for their seemingly lax rules when it came to enforcing physical penalties, putting many players at risk of serious head or brain injuries (helmet-to-helmet contact, targeting, etc.). More recently, some steps have been taken to ensure the safety of these players, but it remains an issue today. That being said, every sport has rules set in place to keep players safe to the best of that organization’s abilities.

The most obvious consideration before playing any sport is having the right protective equipment. Helmets, pads, mouth guards, knee braces, and ankle guards are just some of the many pieces of gear that can greatly reduce one’s risk of suffering a serious injury. Make sure that these fit you well however, as loose or tight-fitting equipment can do more harm than good.

Always make time for rest and regeneration in between physical activities – especially sports. You are much more prone to an injury following several days of sports in a row. It’s important to note that while training and physical rehabilitation can help, they can also worsen an injury. Rest is absolutely critical. It allows your body time to recover from overuse or fatigue, which can, in turn, increase your strength upon healing.

Warming up is another essential (yet obvious) component of preventing sports injuries. Depending on the sport you are about to play, certain stretches and exercises can warm up the body’s muscles beforehand, reducing the risk of pulling or straining, for example. This is great for preventing joint injuries as well, as the muscles surrounding them can adequately stretch and prevent tearing.

While sports can be extremely enjoyable, understanding how to play them properly in order to prevent serious injuries should be a necessity. Know if you have a history of any joint or muscle complications before taking part in any sport, and know how to keep your body safe when doing so.