Why does fear of injury prevent people from taking part in sport?
Fear of injury can pose a very real barrier to participation in sport for people of all ages and abilities. Regardless of whether you have previously suffered from an exercise-related injury yourself, you most likely know someone who has, and taking their stories as cautionary can often deter you from taking up physical activity.
However, caution can quickly morph in to fear and this can prevent people from taking part in activities that will not only benefit their overall physical health, but also their mental health.
We caught up with chartered physiotherapist Dan Jones, who is Head of Medical Services for Cardiff Blues Rugby and Managing Director of Health & Sports Physiotherapy and Pro Sports Medicine Ltd, to find out why people fear injury, how to overcome this fear, and how to benefit both mentally and physically from participation in sport.
Whatever your age, there is strong scientific evidence that supports being physically active can help you lead a healthier and happier life.
Sport and exercise participation is such an important factor in maintaining general health. Whatever your age, there is strong scientific evidence that supports being physically active can help you lead a healthier and happier life. Individuals who exercise regularly have a lower risk of developing many long-term health conditions, such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, and some cancers. Research shows that physical activity can also boost self-esteem, improve mood and sleep quality as well as reducing your risk of stress, depression, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
ComRes interviewed 2,051 adults online in 2015, conducting a survey on exercise participation. Interestingly 11% of 18-24 and 10% of 28-34 year-olds reported that a fear of injury had been a barrier to their participation in sport.
Fear avoidance and catastrophic thinking can play a significant role in inhibiting individuals’ sports and exercise participation, particularly those who have previously sustained injury or those recovering from injury. Importantly fear avoidance and catastrophic thinking are malleable and can be changed through skills-based interventions such as cognitive restructuring, exposure to response prevention, and mindfulness meditation.
"Consistency of training is key to staying injury free and enjoying exercise or participation in sport"
Some individuals will avoid exercise fearing that nothing but pain is associated with sport and exercise. However, exercise doesn't have to be painful. When you first begin an exercise program, start steadily and grade your progress, even consider doing slightly less than you think you can do for the first couple of weeks to allow your body to adapt. A common mistake made by many is to go too hard too soon, leaving themselves vulnerable to illness or overuse injury. This is a common trend seen in the New Year, post-Christmas, or possibly evenpost lockdowns when gyms re-open.
Consistency of training is key to staying injury free and enjoying exercise or participation in sport. By following a well-planned programme that allows sufficient recovery time, exercise can be safe and enjoyable, reducing the risk of pain and injury.
Quite often individuals will experience DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) when they first start exercising or return to exercise. Although painful, this is completely safe and normal and after a couple of days the body will recover and adapt.
If you have experienced injury, products such as Bearhug’s range of joint supports and muscle sleeves, which are uniquely produced using bamboo, are scientifically proven to increase blood flow and dramatically reduce rehabilitation and recovery periods, whilst enhancing performance.
Reference: Fear of injury: barriers to physical activity 2015 Britain | Statista