All athletes, from the most serious professionals to weekend warriors, get injured on occasion, and like the athletes themselves, these injuries can vary widely in type and intensity. Whatever the type and circumstances of your injury, though, the most important thing you can do is to focus on your recovery and get back out there. 

But, before you head out for your first post-injury workout, there’s one thing you should do. You can learn to stop injuries before they happen, or at least reduce the likelihood that you’ll get hurt, by taking several important steps.

Rehab Your Injury

The first thing you should do to keep yourself from getting hurt again while working out is to take the time to properly rehabilitate your sports injury. This may simply require rest and ice, or it might involve extensive physical therapy and even surgery. The key is to listen to your doctors and your body so that you don’t push yourself too hard too quickly, only to find yourself injured again. 

Emphasize Key Movements

Your first serious physical activities after an injury may not be exactly the same as the training that led you to be injured, and often they shouldn’t be. Especially if you were seriously injured and have deconditioned, it’s important to rebuild your strength and stability, and one way to do this is by emphasizing functional movement training

Functional movement encompasses common motions like squatting, pushing and pulling, hinging at the hips, rotating, and carrying – essentially those movements that we use in our daily lives. By rebuilding your strength and stability around these motions, you ensure that you’re ready for anything, whether you have to lift a heavy box at work, row a skull, or run drills at football practice.

Learn Proper Form

Form is important for all types of physical activities, but for some it’s especially critical. For example, if you aren’t using correct technique when lifting weights, it’s very easy to strain a muscle or even do more serious damage to your joints. 

Similar principles apply to running, throwing, swimming, and other physical activities. Furthermore, when you don’t use proper form to perform an action, you aren’t likely to see as many benefits from the activity.

Fall Smarter

Certain sports come with a greater risk of falling and falling is one of the most common ways that people are injured. The problem here is that “just don’t fall” isn’t actually practical advice. No, what you need to do is to learn to fall smarter. Certain athletes, especially gymnasts and dancers, tend to be taught how to do this, but if you’re more of a recreational athlete, you may not have this skill. 

To avoid injuries when falling, you want to lean forward and to the side and relax your body. Additionally, if you twist your arms to the side, you can gain greater control over the fall. Despite the common perception that you want to put your arms out to catch yourself, you actually want to push yourself onto your butt and thighs as much as possible. The goal is to shift the impact toward fleshier parts of your body and away from your head and joints and other areas without much cushion.

Getting hurt tends to be a lot scarier as an adult than as a child because your body is less resilient, but you shouldn’t let a sports injury stop you from exercising. At the end of the day, the long-term risks posed by a sports injury are less serious than the dangers of not being physically active, so don’t let injury anxiety keep you on the sidelines.