7 ways to increase the chances acquiring an injury in sports

Author: Matt K Training | | Categories: Athletic Performance , Fitness Tips , Injury Prevention , Muscle imbalance , Proper warm up , Training Tips

Blog by Matt K Training

There are generally 7 major contributors to non-contact injuries acquired performing sporting like activities. They are, in no particular order: Age, injury history, improper warm-up, poor flexibility, posture, muscle strength imbalance, and fatigue. Two of these contributors (age and injury history) are non-modifiable, meaning, nothing can be done to change or alter them. We cannot change our age, we can only get older; we cannot change our injury history, if I pulled my hamstring muscles during soccer practice last season, nothing can undo that now.

In this post I'll discuss each of these 7 contributors to injury. I'll also dole out some wisdom and advice to reduce your chances of getting injured in sports and/or exercise.

First, the things we can’t change


So how does age contribute to injury? The older the athlete, the greater change of incurring a soft tissue injury. The cut-off appears to lie somewhere around 23-25 years old (Yeah I know, that’s not old). So once an athlete hits their mid twenties, regardless of how fit or conditioned they are, all things being equal, their injury risk will be higher then that of their younger counterparts.


Previous injury

Previous injury to a joint or muscle automatically increases chances of re-injury. That hypothetical hamstring injury I mentioned earlier, regardless of how diligently I rehabilitate it, increases my chances of re-injuring my hamstring muscles more than if I had never injured them. Same story with ankle sprains, those with previous sprains are at higher risk of recurrence.


The other contributors to injury (improper warm-up, poor flexibility, posture, muscle/strength imbalance and fatigue,) are modifiable. Their contribution to injury can be lessened or possibly eliminated, if addressed properly.

The five you can affect

Proper warm-up

I can choose to warm-up properly prior to engaging in sporting activity, or I can ignore it, my choice. Warming up improperly (which includes NOT warming up at all) increases chances of acquiring an injury. Briefly, here’s the recommendation from the American College of Sports Medicine:

5-10 minutes of walking, slow jogging, or stationary cycling, followed by dynamic stretches that mimic the movements the athlete will be doing during the workout or competition.

Static stretching may be an option for some, power oriented sports participants beware (see my previous blog on this topic here).


Firstly, evidence supports the notion that poor lower back posture contributes to hamstring injury. Check your daily habits for things like sitting, slouching, and/or walking with heels. These, as well as carrying too much weight around the midsection can cause an exaggerated forward or backward curve in the lower back (pelvic tilt). Athletes, and active folks should watch out for this. Building up core strength helps.

Poor head and/or shoulder position increases and exacerbates shoulder injury (most commonly scapular impingement). Overhead athletes beware (you who play baseball, racquet sports, and/or track and field throwing events)! Too much throwing paired with poor shoulder/upper body posture, inexorably leads to shoulder injury.

Poor flexibility

Poor flexibility can contribute to poor movement patterns, limited range of motion which contributes to injury. For example, tight hip flexors can contribute to spinal injury during a bench press, as well as hamstring injury during sprinting.

Muscle imbalance

Muscle imbalance is the inability of a muscle to absorb or withstand the forces generated by an opposing muscle at the same joint. For example when sprinting, hamstrings must be able to withstand forces generated by the quadriceps and hip flexors. Another example, when throwing, elbow flexors (antagonist) must withstand forces generated by elbow extensors (the agonist). If the antagonist muscle cannot slow the movement down at the end of the action, injury ensues.

So muscles working in opposition must achieve a specific balance of strength and flexibility. An imbalance is a difference (usually >10%) in flexibility or strength among bilateral muscle groups (for example, muscles in the left leg compared to the same ones in the right leg). When a single limb is considerably stronger than the contralateral (the other side), then risk for injury in the weaker limb increases.

A sport specific athletic performance assessment and/or a general fitness assessment can often identify asymmetry between opposing muscle groups, as well as postural deficits in hips, knees, and ankles.


Finally, number seven, fatigue. Studies looking at leg injuries in soccer players find increased occurrences of muscle strains in lower extremities in the second half of a soccer match compared to the first half. This implicates fatigue is a contributor to these injuries. Additionally, proper form, technique and mental focus can all be negatively affected by fatigued muscles.

Now for the take home lessons:

  • Always, always perform a proper warm up prior to sporting activity.
  • Consider an appropriate physical assessment to identify muscle/strength imbalances, prior to training and competing.
  • Be sure flexibility and core strength are getting attention in your training plan.
  • Finally, the importance of proper training and conditioning before participation in competitive sports cannot be overstated.  While, for some a sport specific exercise training plan can mean training for weeks or months before participation in an actual competition, it is well worth it in the long run.

Hope this helps and thanks for reading!

Looking for guidance in improving your athletic performance? Better yet, ready to make a change in your life? I help folks eat, move, and recover well, contact me here to set up a free consult!

Published by mattktraining

I am currently the Owner of my soloprenuerial company Matt K Training. Through my fitness and nutrition programs I help adults develop skills and practices that help them eat, move, and recover well. Over the past 20 years, in various roles such as a Personal trainer, Exercise Physiologist, Clinical Researcher, and Health Coach I have helped hundreds of adults reach their health and physical performance goals. When not working, I enjoy active pursuits such as playing right field for the Charlton Giants (in a 38+ competitive baseball league), playing tennis, hiking, backpacking, and rock climbing. I also enjoy indoor activities such as playing strategy board games, reading and discussing science fiction literature, dabbling with my guitar, finding creative ways to eat oatmeal, and being a good dad.