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www.arthritisvic.org.au  ... (Copy reviewed 2005)

Warm up to Exercise

The health benefits of regular exercise are well recognised. One popular and enjoyable way improving health and fitness is through active involvement in sport. The wide range of sporting activities available allows everyone to participate, no matter what their age, temperament or degree of fitness.

However, regardless of your level of sporting achievement, there is always the risk of an injury which could put an unexpected stop to your enjoyment. In the long term there is also the possibility of the development of arthritis following severe or recurrent injury to a joint.

Many injuries can be prevented

Sporting injuries can be roughly divided into 3 categories.

  • Overuse injuries are due to repeated stress being put on muscles and the tissues surrounding joints. Common examples are tennis elbow, bursitis and shin splints. The are all preventable.
  • Sudden injuries happen without warning and are due to direct trauma or sudden overload on a tendon, muscles, ligament or bone. Fractures, muscle tears and sprains fall into this category. Many are preventable.
  • Chronic injuries recur at a site when an injury is not given time to heal completely and so becomes vulnerable to repeated stress.

Number one rule to prevent injury - warm up

Warm up is a preparation for more vigorous activity and is essential before training and competition.

Muscles, tendons and joints are more flexible and function more efficiently when they are warm. It is not enough to assume muscles and joints are warm just because the weather is warm. Warming up involves at least 15 minutes of continuous activity using large muscles groups to redistribute blood flow to where it is more needed. Combined with gentle stretching of large muscle groups, warming up improves performance and reduces the risk of injury.

A cool down involving similar stretching and gentle aerobic activity after strenuous exercise is known to minimise muscle soreness.

General rules to prevent injury

Improve general fitness

Overall fitness relates to a combination of cardio-vascular capacity, muscle strength and joint flexibility. Different sports emphasise these factors to a varying degree, so participation in a variety of activities will improve your general fitness and ensure one body part is not being overloaded.

Start gradually

Approach training for a new sport in small steps so your activity level gradually and consistently increases. Choose a sport you enjoy and which suits your age and level of fitness.

Learn good technique and train specifically

A qualified coach is the best person to teach you correct technique and training procedures. A good coach can also give you advice on specific strength and flexibility work to do at a gymnasium.

Nourish your body

Sports requiring a large expenditure of energy need good nourishment. A diet consisting of wholegrain products, fruit and vegetables and which is low in fats and sugar provides plenty of nutrients to your body and sustains energy levels.

Listen to your body

You can prevent more serious injuries occurring by listening to previous warning signals. A period of rest or simple treatment may allow a minor injury to heal quickly. Also, it is important to have adequate rest as overtiredness can lead to injury.

Use protective equipment

Unnecessary injury can be avoided by the use of protective equipment such as mouthguards, helmets, shin shields and supportive footwear. Discuss this with a qualified coach.

If injury does occur

Overuse injuries generally require rest to allow the body time to heal itself. Further problems may be prevented by adjusting your training program, technique or equipment. Talk to your trainer or physiotherapist.

Stop activity and apply R.I.C.E.D

Sudden injuries require immediate attention

Rest Resting the injured part prevents further damage and allows time for healing.

Ice Frequent application (10-20 minutes every hour) of an ice pack (or pack of frozen peas) wrapped in a towel reduces pain and swelling over the first 24-48 hours.

Compression A moderately firm bandage helps control bleeding and swelling

Elevation Reduction of swelling is improved by raising the injured part above the heart level.

Diagnosis If the injury is severe or does not respond within a few hours, seek professional advice for correct diagnosis and most appropriate treatment. There are a number of doctors and physiotherapists specialising in sports medicine.


  • After the first 24.48 hours and when the swelling has subsided, you can aid recovery by gentle exercise and the use of heat and gentle massage.
  • Do not return to a full sporting workload until the injury is fully healed and strength and flexibility are completely restored. Start gently, using pain as a guide.
  • A physiotherapist can give advice on the best way of returning to full function and the use of supports or strapping if required.
  • Maintain general fitness levels by exercising in a way that allows the injured part to rest. Swimming and water exercise are often good alternatives.
  • Consider why the injury occurred and, if possible eliminate unsafe factors in the future.

If you have arthritis you can still play sport, but...

  • Choose a sport which does not overstress your arthritic joints. Contact sports and vigorous, highly competitive sports are generally not appropriate. You can reduce strain on your joints by choosing water-based activities or sports which allow for periods of rest.
  • Include a sporting activity as one part of your regular exercise program.
  • Rest badly inflamed joints.
  • Do not continue the activity if you experience pain or severe discomfort in your joints.
  • Modify, but do not discontinue, your level of exertion if you experience slightly increased pain for a short period after your sporting activity.
  Date Last Reviewed by NEVDGP: 20 August, 2006

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