Unintentional injury is the leading cause of death for Canadians between the ages of 1 and 44 years.[i] In addition to the devastating human cost, this major public health challenge also represents a huge economic burden. In 2018, injury in Canada resulted in $20.4 billion in direct health care costs and $29.4 billion in total economic costs.[ii]

Physiotherapists play a huge and critical role in injury prevention and management. In this article, I discuss the most common causes of unintentional injury, including injuries at home, work and sports, as well as provide an overview of some of the strategies you can employ to minimize the risk of injury in certain situations.

Table of Contents

What is Injury Prevention?

Injury prevention involves the effort to prevent or reduce the severity of bodily injuries caused by external circumstances before they occur. Injuries are often grouped into unintentional and intentional injuries.

Common causes of unintentional injury are falls, poisoning, transport accidents, falling objects and sports injuries. While these types of injuries can occur at any time to anyone, the summer was found to be the most frequently reported season where injuries occur in Canada.[iii]

Prevention is a key strategy in the management of any type of injury. Physiotherapists work with people who have been injured as a result of falls, motor vehicle collisions, sports injuries and work-related injuries providing customized rehabilitation programs and prevention strategies.

What are the Most Common Injuries at Home?

Fall Injury Prevention

Falls are the most common cause of injuries in the home, in both elderly and young children, and can potentially lead to serious consequences. Physiotherapists not only treat the consequences of falls which can include muscle strains or broken bones, but also work to prevent future falls.

Fall injury prevention is an important strategy in helping to maintain mobility and independence in the older population. These strategies can include:

  • Modifying the home environment by removing furniture/objects as tripping hazards, securing or removing mats/area rugs, improve lighting
  • Developing a strengthening and balance program
  • Wearing appropriate footwear
  • Installing grab bars and handles in bathroom to help improve stability when transferring

Learn more about the risk factors around falls and fall injury prevention strategies.

Back Injury Prevention

With an increase in people working from home and taking on home improvement projects, back injuries are increasing. These injuries can be very disabling resulting in pain and decreased mobility and function. Back injuries are preventable through proper strategies and techniques.

These techniques include:

  • Paying attention to posture whether in standing, sitting or in transitional movements
  • Proper lifting techniques which include bending at the knees, engaging core muscles and keeping objects close to the body
  • Ensuring workspace is properly set-up to optimize ergonomics
  • Being active to minimize adipose tissue around the abdomen (this puts greater stress on the low back)

At Propel Physiotherapy, we treat clients with a range of back problems, from acute injuries like lower back strain to more chronic issues like degenerative disc disorder or facet joint osteoarthritis. Learn more about the most common causes of back pain and our back injury prevention program approach from a physiotherapy perspective.

What are the Most Common Sports Injuries?

As Canadians become more active in the summer, in particularly children and adolescence, the risk of sports related injuries increases. Most sports injuries are due to trauma or overuse of muscles, ligaments or joints and are highly dependent on the activity performed.

Sprains of the ligaments (band of tissue around the joint) involve a stretch, twist or tearing leading to injury, and typically occur at the knee or ankle. A muscle strain involves stretching or tearing of the muscle fibers and can often occur in the hamstring or rotator cuff muscles.

Concussion Prevention

Concussions also make up a large part of preventable injury in Canada. Handling the effects of concussion including headaches, visual disturbances, nausea and memory loss is paramount to concussion management.

Prevention of concussions can include strategies such as:

  • Wearing proper and well fitted protective gear
  • Using proper techniques and form during sports and activities
  • Recognizing signs and symptoms of a concussion

Following return to play guidelines if you’ve suffered a concussion

How Do You Train for Injury Prevention?

While sports injuries are common, many strategies exist to minimize risk. Developing a proper exercise, training and sport specific strengthening program is vital to decreasing injuries.

Stretching and warming up before exercise and sports help to raise your body temperature and increase blood flow to the muscles which may minimize your risk of injury. Sport or activity specific warmups can help to minimize muscle strain and loosen joints specifically involved in that activity.

From a physiotherapist’s perspective, it is also really important that anyone playing a sport or doing an activity that puts them in the same position or repeating the same motion for prolonged periods of time undertakes appropriate cross training measures. We prepare clients for the demands of sports and other regular activities by prescribing strength training exercises that can help prevent injuries from occurring while also maximizing their performance.

A proper cool down may also help to decrease muscle soreness and allows a gradual recovery of pre-exercise heart rate and blood pressure.

What are the Most Common Injuries at Work?

Work related injuries vary depending on the type and intensity of the work. As more people continue to work from home, increased injuries result from the repetitive and sedentary nature of computer work.

Typically, the most immediate effect of prolonged sitting and inactivity is pain. As gravity and fatigue take over with prolonged sitting, the alignment of your posture and spine changes leading to tightening and shortening of neck, back and hip musculature that can lead to muscle pain.

Carpal tunnel injury, tennis elbow and hand injuries can also be caused by the repetitive nature of typing. Many of these injuries can be prevented by having the right workplace set up and ergonomics. This includes:

  • Choosing the right chair to support your lumbar spine
  • Adjust the desk height accordingly so that your feet are flat on the floor
  • Position your monitor properly to minimize eye and neck strain
  • Have arm rests that support your arms
  • Include stretching and standing breaks at least every hour

There are many steps that can be taken to help to mitigate the negative effects of sitting all day. By implementing these tips on how to work from home pain-free, you can improve both your physical and mental health.

Injury Prevention Programs

Falls, motor vehicle collisions, sport related injuries and workplace injuries can all have a devastating impact on your health and function. Our highly experienced and trained therapists can provide a comprehensive assessment and treatment approach to help manage the effects of injury and prevent the potential of further injuries to help you get back to doing what you love.

Cycling Injury Prevention Program

Physiotherapists tend to see some common cycling injuries and issues when clients come into the clinic, whether they are beginner cyclists, avid cyclists, or competitors. Many of these issues stem from being in a forward flexed position or crouched position with the hips bent towards the stomach for prolonged periods of time; and looking forward with the neck curved back.

Registered physiotherapist Hoong Phang takes a closer look at why some of these common cycling injuries or issues occur and provide general recommendations for exercises to prevent the most common cycling injuries.

Written by

Kathy Mileski
Kathy MileskiRegistered Physiotherapist and Mindfulness Trainer
Kathy Mileski loves the idea of helping others be as mobile and active as they possibly can. She believes that every person has the potential to do amazing things. That belief bolstered by her training and experience has helped her clients to achieve success in their rehab goals no matter where they are in terms of their recovery.



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