Sports injuries can affect anyone no matter how in shape they are. In fact, approximately 10 percent of all physically active adults suffer a sports-related injury every year, and more than 775,000 children under the age of 15 visit the emergency room with a sports injury each year in the U.S. alone.

There are two main types of sports injuries: acute and chronic. Acute injuries include fractures, tears, sprains and dislocations. Overuse injuries include tendonitis, plantar fasciitis, tennis elbow and carpal tunnel syndrome. While there is no way to completely avoid sustaining a sports injury, there are a number of ways to reduce your risk of sustaining one.

Learn the Proper Technique

If you are starting a new training regimen or trying out a new sport, make sure that you choose a sport or activity that is a good fit for you, especially if you are older, not used to exercising or are suffering from any disease or muscular/joint condition, such as arthritis.

When planning on starting a new activity, take time to learn the proper techniques involved, and, especially for contact and team sports, make sure that you know (and follow) the rules and that you are in good physical condition beforestarting the new activity.

Take Care of Your Body

No matter how fit or unfit you are, remember to take good care of yourself and of your body. This includes wearing the necessary protective equipment, wearing good and supportive shoes, warming up before exercising and warming down afterwards, and stretching after exercising. Stretching both helps prevent cramps and stiffness and improves your flexibility, which further reduces the risk of sustaining a sports injury. At the very least, it is recommended that each stretch lasts a minimum of 15 to 30 seconds.

Know Your Limits

Lastly, know your body and know your limits. If you are extremely tired or already in pain, don’t exercise or take it much slower than you normally do that day. Even if you are not in pain or tired, take at least one or two rest days every week as this gives your muscles and connective tissues an opportunity to heal between training sessions, thereby lowering your risk of sustaining both overuse and acute injuries.

If you are trying to increase the duration or intensity of your training, you should follow the so-called 10 percent rule. This means that when increasing your activity, only increase it by up to 10 percent each week. For example, if you’re used to lifting 20-pound weights and can do this comfortably, don’t switch directly to 40-pound weights the next week; instead, opt for the closest upgrade. This also goes for any type of cardio exercise like running, biking or swimming. Building little-by-little is the key.

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