Tien Pham, one of our Physiotherapists based in Adelaide, has been involved in martial arts for over 15 years, with Taekwondo being his main area of interest. Having travelled and supported the Australian Taekwondo team at international and national competitions, he has a deep understanding of injury prevention strategies that are essential to the success of the athletes. In this post Tien discusses how these strategies can be applied to the workplace.
Sustaining a sports injury often means being sidelined until you have recovered. Taekwondo, the Korean martial art known for its fast kicks and spectacular demonstrations, is often plagued with injuries as a result of incorrect techniques and poor conditioning. Workplace injuries often mimic these traits, as repetitive activities for long durations tend to place undue stress on the body when workers have not reached a level of physical fitness appropriate for the role.
Whilst the taekwondo athlete is trained to withstand physical stresses of their role, blue collar workers must also approach their job in the same manner to reduce the risk of injury, keeping them working more comfortably.
- Preparation – Having the correct work attire, assistive equipment, and personal protective equipment (PPE) will reduce the risk of injury for the worker in their manual roles. Whilst the taekwondo athlete wears a helmet and chest guard to reduce the impact of direct blows, PPE will help reduce unexpected injuries from occurring to workers. A well fitted pair of work boots will ensure comfort and reduce the onset of cumulative injuries to the ankles, knees and hips.
- Conditioning – Experiencing general aches and soreness is common when starting a new physical task. However, performing warm up exercises such as light stretching and strengthening activities will help improve recovery. Over time, a worker’s body will adapt to the work task, and will be able to withstand the additional physical loads. If a worker experiences sore calves after a long day of constant walking, regular calf stretches will help reduce the tightness, with simple calf raise exercises helping to build up their strength and endurance.
- Maintenance – Over time, the body may adopt maladaptive habits with repetitive tasks. Incorrect techniques can place undue stresses onto different parts of the body. Re-evaluating techniques, reviewing with rules and protocols, and revising your exercise program can help ensure you remain safe and perform your sport for longer. Replacing worn-out boots and updating exercise programs can help reduce the toll place on a worker’s body.
- Injury Management – Despite all of our best efforts, injuries can still happen. Although an initial rest period may be required, an extended break from the training gym (for taekwondo) or workplace can prolong the overall recovery. Light exercises and a graduated return to work process will help minimise deconditioning and facilitate rehabilitation, permitting a quicker return to full work duties.
Following these simple principles will help you to perform safely at higher levels of physical activity for longer periods. Whether in the workplace or in a competitive martial arts environment, ensuring your body is fit and healthy for your role is the best investment for your longevity in your life pursuits.