Whether you're an adult or adolescent, participating in athletics is a great way for a person to maintain health and fitness. Regardless at which level you are choosing to complete, there are many common injuries that can occur while an athlete is training. Many may assume that backyard sports may pose less risk than more organized leagues but that isn't true. While the risk of injury is always present when playing a sport, there are many steps that you as an athlete can take to prevent succumbing to an athletic injury.

1. Increase Flexibility

Strained muscles and ligaments account for many of the most common sport related injuries that an athlete faces. Before getting into the thick of training, it is important to prepare your body for the activity in front of it. Proper warming up and cooling down with a mix of static and dynamic stretching of muscles will assist in reduction of strain and sprains. Conditioning your body will strengthen muscles most used and lower the impact and risk of injuring oneself.

2. Learn the Proper Techniques

It isn't rare for an athlete to want to trust their natural instincts when participating in a sport but it is important to note that learning the proper techniques can not only enhance your success but also protect you from becoming sidelined from painful injury. Working on technique throughout the season will keep you from becoming complacent as an athlete and will keep you participating at full health. You should also consider following the rules and guidelines as part of your technique. These are in place to prevent injury and should always be followed. All it takes for a serious injury to occur is a one-time slip in technique or broken rules.

3. Wear the Correct Gear and Use the Right Equipment

This particular tip seems obvious but there is more to it than just wearing the appropriate gear for the activity. While wearing padding, helmets, or other protective gear as necessary seems like a given, as an athlete, you also need to be sure proper fit of gear isn't ignored. Never go without the equipment meant to keep you safe.

4. Take Breaks and Time Off

Many times we get so involved in activities that we forget to take a break. In regards to athletes, it is incredibly important to give yourself time off to allow your body to recover.  Taking a break comes to play in a few different ways. During practices and games, utilize rest periods. Short breaks while participating in an activity will allow you to prevent overuse and heat related injuries from occurring. It is imperative to remember that rest breaks during training or competitions aren't enough to help prevent injury alone. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, taking off one day per week and a month off per sport per year is also necessary to reduce overuse and minimize injury risks. Also of significance to note is a common practice of participating with multiple sports teams at the same time. This can be a recipe for absolute disaster. Switch up your routine to avoid overworking the same muscle groups rather than focusing all of your physical output on a single sport.

5. Listen to Your Body – Do Not Play Through Pain

There are times as an athlete where you have done what you can to prevent injury and still have something happen. If you experience this, you should stop immediately and not try to play through your pain or "walk it off." A lot of minor injuries become something more because an athlete ignored their body. If you're limping, feel a muscle is more than just cramping, or are not able to use proper technique without pain, get yourself to a doctor. Catching an injury early will prevent it from progressing to a career ending moment. 

Whether you're planning some Ultimate Frisbee with friends in the park, a rec soccer league, or joining a competitive baseball team, following some of these injury prevention tips will help keep you participating as a healthy athlete.