Return to sports and competition post COVID-19 pandemic.

Mimi Yamakawa-Armstrong

June 24, 2020

Return to Sports Tips Post COVID-19 Pandemic

Key Points:

• Drop your return to pre-activity levels by 30%-50% (Load, Intensity, Frequency, Repetitions)
• Start with low to moderate intensity
• 10-20% increase each week
• Ease back into body contact and sport specific game type drills that require sudden change of direction

Why the fuss?

Professional AFL has started after a long period of non-competition & modified training and many players have already suffered soft tissue injuries which was predicted by many experts in the field of sports medicine.

Reports on German Soccer team, Bundesliga, has also been frequently cited in different media mentioning an increase in injury rate per game from 0.27 to 0.88 (pre- and post-COVID-19 lock down).
This is three times more injuries after lock-down!

(Image thanks to Medical News Today)

Restrictions upon sports is about to change again so we need to be mindful of how you will return to sporting activities. Unfortunately, seniors in community level AFL and netball will miss out on this season but other sports at this stage are still going ahead. This includes basketball and most junior competitions are set to start next month.

Children can be more resilient to injuries due to less risk factors around past injuries etc but they are still at risk! One of the biggest risk factors in soft tissue injuries is a spike in training or competition load after a break and even my 8-year-old son who has been very active during the lock down still ended up with sore leg muscles after one week of running and playing footy back at school. This clearly shows how much more active kids are when they are walking to school, running around at lunch, school PE classes and after school sports training sessions compared to COVID19 school from home.

Furthermore, returning to competitive sport is certainly not the same as running and bike riding that many people used to keep up their fitness level during lock-down. AFL research suggests many players don’t reach their top speed in typical training sessions seen in the game let alone doing running independent running training during COVID-19. Furthermore, tackling and different types of agility-based movement at unpredictable times was very unlikely to have been practiced by our kids and adults during the lock down period putting them at risk on return to sport.

So, what can you do about it?

The thing we know about sudden increases in load is that it will increase injury risks. When you are going back to any sporting activities, including the gym, make sure you start slow. If you are a gym user start with reducing your weights by 30-50% and give plenty of time to recover between the training sessions. Ease back to the activity in the first few weeks and increase by 10-20% each week.

For junior players, things like sports in different settings such as school, community teams and even incidental exercise should be counted as activity and closely monitored. As important as return to sport and exercise is for our kids make sure not to get too excited and return to all previous levels of training and sport all at once. Aim to return to one sport at a time and gradually add other sports back in.

If your child is keen to go back to playing competition, use the next school holidays to focus on a gradual increase in activity levels and organise team training to help prepare for contact and game-like drills. If organising a team practice is difficult, our physiotherapists can prescribe tailored exercise programs to prepare your body ready for return to specific sports as well as injury prevention drills/exercises.

Enjoy the return to sport but stay safe!



Mimi has a special interest in Adolescent injuries having completed post graduate qualifications in Paediatric Physiotherapy and is currently completing her Master’s in Sports & Exercise Physiotherapy. Call Mimi or the team at Grand Slam Physio if you have any further queries or book in online.