Preventing Injuries in Contact Sports

Contact sports carry a higher risk of injury. Although it's impossible to prevent injury completely, there are some things you can do to reduce your chances.
Preventing Injuries in Contact Sports

Last update: 23 February, 2021

Lots of us enjoy contact sports. The adrenaline, competition, and skill involved can make them really exciting. But to enjoy contact sports to the fullest, it’s important to take steps for preventing injuries.

With this type of sport, there’s a much higher chance of becoming injured. However, as with any risks, being well informed and taking the necessary precautions can significantly reduce your odds of getting hurt.

Contact sports

Although there are many different contact sports, the most obvious are those where two athletes face off against each other. And each discipline will have its own rules as to what’s permitted and what parts of the body you can use.

Popular contact sports include boxing, muay thai, mixed martial arts, kickboxing, judo, sumo wrestling, Greco-Roman wrestling, fencing, and many popular team sports. Each one has a different style and involves different techniques. The ideal sport for you will depend on your own abilities and how much risk you’re willing to take.

Preventing injuries in contact sports

Having established which sports we’re looking at, let’s get to the heart of the problem: if the idea of the sport is to fight each other, how on earth do you prevent injuries? This answer will obviously vary depending on the sport in question.

However, there are some key things you can do which will apply regardless of which sport you’re participating in. If you take these into consideration, you’ll significantly reduce the risk of being injured, become injured less frequently, and if you do get injured, it’ll likely be less serious.

Two players in a rugby tackle.

Follow the rules

This may seem really obvious, but the first step for avoiding injuries is to make sure that all participants follow the rules properly. These rules might include not striking sensitive parts of the body or may be designed to specifically remove some of the inherent risks. So, penalizing anyone who breaks the rules is really important.

Preventing injuries in contact sports: learn to defend yourself

Although the point is to defeat your opponent, it’s also really important to know how to defend yourself properly. Your ability to prevent any injuries will largely come down to your ability to stop, dodge, or block your opponent’s movements.

But this also applies to how to take the blows. No one who participates in these sports leaves without a scratch. For example, if you’re boxing, then the way you contract your abdominals when receiving a punch to the body will be key for absorbing the shock.

Academic literature on the subject highlights the importance of protecting the most vulnerable areas of the head, being sure to leave only the strongest areas uncovered. And in many sports, learning to fall correctly is also crucial, such as in judo, for example.

Know how to attack

Just as important as knowing how to defend yourself is knowing how to hit properly. The biomechanics of movement in these sports have been extensively studied, and this science can help us to take better care of ourselves.

For example, if you’re practicing a sport that involves a lot of kicking, you need to use the correct technique to avoid hip or ankle injuries. Similarly, if you’re punching your opponent, you need to protect your wrists.

Train your general musculature

Two people boxing correctly to prevent injuries in this contact sport.

As with any sport, you never use just one set of muscles. Your entire musculature will be important for performing at your best. In boxing, whilst the arms need to be agile and strong, the legs will also need to be strong and quick. Similarly, in MMA, aside from just punching hard, you’ll need to work your back muscles for grappling.

As a result, cross-training can be a good general method for preventing injuries in contact sports. It’s a good idea to do other forms of training as well, such as swimming or aerobics. This will help to strengthen other important groups that might not get worked as much in the sport itself.

Preventing injuries in contact sports: make sure you rest and recover

Being at full fitness is another key part of preventing injuries in contact sports. Not only will you be more agile and have more energy, but the different structures in your body will also be in better condition.

It’s not just about strength

If you take each of these key things into consideration, you’ll already have done much to reduce the chances of getting injured. This doesn’t mean that you might not still suffer an injury, but it’ll be less likely.

So, work your whole body, perfect your technique, and always compete in a controlled environment. Your body will thank you for it, and you’ll enjoy the sport even more.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • M. Pic, C. Sánchez y A. Blanco. Caracterización del ‘Knock out’ en Boxeo. Cuadernos de psicología del deporte. Vol. 16 Núm. 1 (2016)
  • A. Fernández, E. Mesa y A. Amalia. ¿El Boxeo, es el deporte con mayor frecuencia de trauma ocular? Revista Cubana de Oftalmología Vol.19 Núm.2 (2006)
  • J. Gallach, L. González. El entrenamiento cruzado: una posibilidad del mantenimiento de la forma ante lesiones unilaterales. Apunts. Medicina de l’Esport. Vol. 38, Núm. 141 (2003)

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.