How to Avoid a Sports-Inflicted Spine Injury

Up to 10 percent of all athletic injuries occur in the lumbar or lower back region, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. This is relatively high considering all other possible injuries, such as ankle and wrist sprains, dislocated shoulders, bruised knees or one of many types of pulled muscles. But due to the potential severity of spinal injuries, it is imperative to have systems in place to protect athletes from them. Here are four ways to avoid sports-inflicted spine injuries.

Use Proper Equipment
Your equipment should be updated to reflect any technical changes due to recent sports physiological studies. It should also fit each athlete properly. Correctly fitted football helmets, for example, can help stabilize an athlete’s neck and spine, preventing injuries in these areas. If you’re an gymnastics coach, make sure you’re using the proper padding around high beams and other apparatuses. For any sport, check that all players have the appropriate shoes and that they fit. Equipment managers should also inspect and maintain equipment according to the manufacturer’s standards.

Teach Proper Techniques
You can never overemphasize the use of proper techniques in sports, even for seasoned athletes. Make those who play contact sports aware of illegal tackles or moves that could injure them or other players. For games like baseball, discourage players from sliding head-first into bases, according to Mayo Clinic, and make sure all gymnastics participants have spotters on beams and bars when practicing their routines.

Institute An Exercise Program
Stretching and resistance exercises are known to help prevent injuries in the joints and spine. Exercise builds flexibility and strength in muscles surrounding vulnerable joints, such as the knees, shoulders and lower back. To avoid spinal injuries, include exercises that build the core muscles in the abs, obliques and lower back. Crunches are one way to build abdominal muscles, while twisting during sit-ups strengthens the obliques, which are located on each side of your abs. Raising the lower back off the floor while lying down strengthens the lower back, while pulling both knees to the chest increases flexibility there.

Have Health Care Professionals Available
Hire an experienced athletic trainer who knows how to evaluate players for injuries. These individuals know when to pull players from sporting events, based on bruises or strains they sustain during events. It’s also essential to have paramedics or EMTs available to further evaluate athletes. They know how to move injured players, which can help prevent spinal injuries. They also have direct links to doctors and hospitals who are on call for immediate help.

Whether you’re an athlete or coach, you can avoid many sports-inflicted spinal injuries by following some of these suggestions. The key is educating others on these safety issues.