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Returning to sport safely

Kiwis are back doing what they love and returning to sports. But are we just going to see more players injured on the sidelines than remaining on the field?  Social distancing rules have been in place since 25 March which has limited a lot of athletes ability to train and stay fit until they were lifted recently in alert level 2.

Alert level 1 allows all eager athletes to return to their sporting pursuits, including contact team sports. Sporting gatherings no longer have restrictions in place and many sporting tournaments have resumed.

Athletes have not been training like they normally would to prepare for the busy season ahead. A competitive tournament is very different from team training, and there are concerns over potential injuries. The Alert level 3 and level 4 lockdown rules meant that many players hadn’t trained properly in over eight weeks. Orthopaedic surgeon Mr Nick Gormack warns of the consequences.

To mitigate the risk of injuries coaches and physiotherapists should encourage their athletes to take care of themselves after such a long time off. Nick Gormack, an Orthopaedic Surgeon at Ormiston Hospital regularly treats sporting injuries and warns of the potential risks. “There are a lot of preventable injuries that are treated by Physiotherapists and Orthopaedic Surgeons. Athletes should prepare with pre-season training before returning to sport, and warm up properly before each game.”

“We know athletes will be keen to return to competitive sport, but we don’t want to see a spike in injuries that could otherwise be avoided,” said Mr Gormack, who explains he already sees a spike in sprains, tears and fractures at the start of each season.

A good coach or physiotherapist may be able to help athletes to avoid injuries when returning to sport. But it is not just athletes who need to look after themselves, it is everyone. Here are some further guidelines for avoiding injuries this season, whether it is a gym workout or competition.

Returning to sport

Warm-up and cool down 

Aim to warm up and cool down every time you do something physical. An adequate warm-up will help your body prepare for exercise and enhance cardiovascular activity which in turn loosens muscles and joints. Specific warmup regimes have been developed by international sports agencies, and have been proven to reduce the risk of injury.

A cool down should involve slowly bringing your heart rate back down to normal, this can be as simple as walking and stretching at the end of a game.


Including dynamic stretching before and after activity helps to increase flexibility and minimise injury. Ask your team physiotherapist for ideas on stretching and ensure you target all of the high- risk muscle groups.

Ease back into sports 

With such a long rest period, it is sensible to slowly build back up into sporting pursuits rather than expecting to perform at where you were pre-lockdown. Returning to sport might take a bit longer than you anticipated.

Mix it up 

Get in some strength training as well as some cardiovascular training. This helps to keep muscles strong and ensure you do not overuse any one set of muscles.

Younger athletes

Recent research has shown that significant sporting injuries are becoming more common in youth and teenage athletes. These injuries, such as ACL tears, can have a devastating effect on the career of a young athlete. Expert coaching on the proper way to jump and land in high risk sport can reduce the potential for significant injuries.

Older athletes

If you are someone who enjoys casual or competitive sport or perhaps a simple walk around the block with the dog, it is still important to consider your level of fitness and exercise appropriately. As we enter level 1 it is a good time to ease back into the things you enjoy doing rather than over doing it.

If you have any Orthopaedic concerns please see your GP or contact Mr Nick Gormack on (09) 523 2766 or email