If you really want to get back to enjoying your sport after a long pandemic layoff, take it easy.
Football almost came home. Wimbledon has been and gone. After any major sporting event – and even more so after a major success like reaching a final – the county’s parks and pitches are filled with people inspired to unleash their inner Kane, Sterling or Raducanu. With the Olympics just around the corner, next we’ll see budding Kennys, Johnson-Thompsons and Asher-Smiths taking to the track, road or field. Usually there’s a degree of risk in making the sudden switch from relatively sedentary to high intensity. But this year that risk is greater than it has ever been.
The problem is that for the best part of a year gyms have been closed, sports clubs have operated at reduced capacity (if they have been able to operate at all) and people who would usually have been able to maintain a certain level of fitness have, in many cases, become deconditioned. For a part of the past year we were actively told not to go out and train for more than an hour a day. Even those of us who usually managed to get in a little fitness time by walking to work (or to the train station) discovered that working from home meant the commute was now about 15ft to the kitchen table.
Right now, we’re seeing the effects of this deconditioning in the referrals made to us by GPs. Whatever the sport (we’ve seen football, rugby, tennis and golf injuries recently), impact and twisting injury cases are higher than they would usually be. It’s happening across age groups and at virtually every level from weekend warrior to semi-pro.
It’s a problem for the here and now, of course. Every injury is another demand on the NHS. But it’s a problem stored up for the future too. Tear your ACL and you’ll be on the sidelines for around nine months. That’s horrible for any athlete at any time, but it’s so much worse coming on the back of a year of enforced isolation and social distancing. We know a torn ACL increases the risk of osteoarthritis in later life. We also know that prolonged and enforced periods away from sport can be damaging for mental health.
So for all sorts of reasons, take it easy as you return to sport. Build yourself back up gradually. Don’t take on serious challenges until you’ve built some serious match fitness. And if you’re doing gym work, remember to include quadriceps exercises to build the muscular support system your knees need.
It could help ensure you remain able to enjoy the sport you love.
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