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Navigating the transition from isolation back to training & play.

With the easing of restrictions and return to training and sporting activities it is essential that we navigate this transition with care and planning to reduce the risk of injury to the returning athlete. Much of isolation exercising has involved straight line activities such as running, walking or exercising in small spaces at home. Multi directional training and most obviously contact drills and play has also been in hibernation over the past couple of months. These more dynamic movements are considered higher risk to injuries particularly of the lower limb. Risk of injury is also impacted by and the unpredictable nature of contact sports and also intensity of the game situations.  Without consideration of the effect of isolation on our return to play we become vulnerable to injury, and the threat of more time out of play on the sidelines becomes real. 

Important training principles to consider incorporating into your training program when playing competitive sports include; 

  • Dynamic warm ups- see below a list of resources for specific sports. The training principles are consistent throughout the programs of neuromuscular control and joint proprioception and can be adapted to any sport. 

  • Change of direction - agility training, cutting drills, zig zag movements 

  • Change of speed- acceleration and deceleration drills 

  • Intensity- practice games 

Some tips to help you transition from isolation to sport include:

  • Ease back into training - common sense seems obvious here but we can get excited and jump the gun when it comes to things we love. Your fitness and ability levels for the requirement of your sport will have dropped significantly, even if you have been exercising regularly throughout isolation. Start back at training with a lower intensity and not at the level at which you were at before isolation and build it gradually. 

  • Dynamic warm up and training drills- strong research reports that having a warm up that consists of dynamic movements such as changes of direction, cutting and hopping can lower your risk of knee injuries in sports such as soccer, AFL and netball. See resource list at bottom of article for reference. 


Evidence based programs for reducing injury risk. 

Written by Elle Dwyer


B. Sc, DPT 

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