The new year has turned over and everyone is having a fresh start.

It’s the time of year most team sports are into pre-season training, new year resolution fitness regimes are taking off and excitement is high for new opportunity.

Players may be returning from long injury lay-offs, runners hitting the track following their Christmas holidays and of course cricket and tennis are in full swing.

This is also means it’s the time of year that a lot injuries occur!

Whether it’s an athlete returning to their sport or someone in the middle of a long season, I regularly get asked as a physio, ‘how do I best avoid injury’?

The answer to this involves a lot of factors but a great place to start is to identify your injury risks and preparing well for your sport.

Although accidents happen and we can never guarantee an injury won’t occur, what we do know is that different sports are more susceptible to different injuries due to their differing physical demands. For example, we tend to see overload injuries such as Achilles and Patella tendinopathies in runners and teenagers, shoulder impingements in swimmers, ankle sprains in jumping sports like basketball and netball, hamstring and groins strains in AFL footballers and of course the dreaded ACL injury with our Basketballers, Netballer’s and Footballers.

The good news is we know that the risk of a lot of these injuries occurring can be reduced by implementing preventative strengthening and improved neuromuscular control programs.

As mentioned above, a lot of sports are prone to the devastating ACL injury and given it’s long rehab and unfortunately low rate of return to previous level of sport amongst athlete’s who have undergone an ACL reconstruction, it’s become the ‘poster injury’ in sports medicine.

As research shows that 50%-70% of non-contact ACL injuries are preventable, this makes it a great example of how identifying your injury risks and implementing an injury prevention program can help you stay on the park longer.

If you’ve been listening to the news over the past few months or are just a keen sports fan you’d be well aware of the media attention and hype around the upcoming AFL Women’s, and also recently the Women’s Big Bash cricket taking off. You may have also heard or read about the conversation regarding the concern of a potential increased injury rate as these sports grow, and in particular, again, ACL injuries!

The reason for this concern is due to several reasons, as research has shown us who is most at risk and why.

We know through research that most at risk are girls aged between 14-18 and men aged 19-25, teenagers with recent growth spurts, previous ACL injury, athletes who are increasing their training load and the athlete who has increased their level of competition.

You can quickly see why these young girls, who are going from semi-professional footballers to elite AFL stars, are regarded as high risk for injuries!

Now although this attention has centred around our soon to be AFL idols, the caution for increased injury rates filters right down to our grassroots where participation numbers are on a rapid rise, particularly with our adolescent female footballers.

Continuing with our example of ACL risks, our research shows young females are at more risk of ACL injury compared to young males and this is thought to be due to a smaller attachment site of the ACL, increased hip angle which biomechanically increases loading through the knees and a decreased ratio of quads to hamstring strength. What this often results in is a decrease in control through the knee when jumping, landing, twisting and turning. The mechanism for ACL injury!

Now the point I’m making here isn’t that it’s all doom and gloom for adolescent female athletes, it’s how important efficient biomechanics and strong neuromuscular control are to avoid injury. Not just for ACL injury, but all injuries.

So what can we take away from this?

Whether you’re an elite athlete, weekend warrior or returning to the running track, we’re all susceptible to injuries but they can be prevented!

By identifying what injuries you’re likely to be exposed to and understanding your biomechanics, implementing an injury preventative program to improve biomechanics and neuromuscular control, you can reduce your chance of becoming another injury stat and improve performance.

Remember, Prevention is always better than a cure!