Physical Therapy

Mina Samukawa

Preventing Sports Injuries

Mina Samukawa , Associate Professor

Faculty of Health Sciences, Graduate School of Health Sciences (Department of Health Sciences, School of Medicine)

High school : Hokkaido Otaru Chouryou High School

Academic background : Doctorate from Sapporo Medical University

Research areas
Sports physical therapy
Research keywords
conditioning, stretching, prevention

What made you initiate your current research?

Sports injuries result in pain and instability of the joints, making it difficult to continue exercising. Sometimes, athletes are forced to give up their careers on account of not being able to produce the expected results due to injuries right before a competition. I initiated this research after contemplating not only just treating sports injuries but actually preventing them.

Figure 1. The Mogul National Team

As a physical therapist for the Mogul National Team of the Ski Association of Japan, I have accompanied off-season training camps, World Cups, world championships, and the Olympics, and have been engaged in the prevention and treatment of injuries since 2003. While athletes train throughout the year, they cannot participate in important competitions if they get injured. Therefore, efforts to prevent injuries are also essential to improving their performance. In fact, with the mogul team, we figured out the cause of injuries frequently occurring in the knees and back, and introduced an enhanced training program to prevent these injuries.

Figure 2. Condition Check

What kind of research do you do?

In order to prevent injuries, athletes are required to have a good understanding of their condition (conditioning) .

Thus, with the mogul team, each athlete is required to keep a conditioning journal regarding their physical condition, mental condition, sleep, bathing, awakening, diet, and practice times, for which we provide individual feedback about trends prior to competitions or during the season, based upon statistical analysis as provided in Figure 2.

Figure 3. Dynamic stretching

Figure 4. Ultrasound

Figure 5. Ultrasonographic images before and after dynamic stretching (the arrow indicates stretching in the tendon)

Figure 6. Lower Limb Injuries Prevention Program for Ski Athletes (DVD)

Moreover, athletes are proactively incorporating stretching in order to maintain a good physical condition. Stretching is known as a warm-up method before exercising and is said to be effective in improving flexibility, reducing fatigue, and preventing injuries. However, it was recently revealed that conventional stretching (static stretching) before exercise relaxes the muscles and nerves, which negatively impacts the exercise. At the same time, the efficacy of dynamic stretching, which flexes your joints as much as possible by using your muscles (Figure 3), has been suggested; subsequently, it has been practiced mainly in sports settings, but the effects on musculotendinous tissues is unknown as of yet. Thus, we carried out dynamic stretching on the calf muscles and conducted an examination using an ultrasonographic diagnosis apparatus (Figure 4), which revealed that stretching effects were mainly in the tendons (Figure 5).

What is your next goal?

It has been reported that effective prevention of sports injuries can be obtained by practicing an exercise program for a certain period, which includes elements such as flexibility, muscle strength, skill, and balance required for the event. In October 2008, we established the Lower Limb Injuries Prevention Program for Ski racers (DVD; Figure 6), which incorporates the aforementioned dynamic stretching, in collaborations with the Ski Association of Japan, the Japan Institute of Sports Science, and the Japanese Society of Clinical Sports Medicine. In the future, I would like to use this prevention program to verify the effects of injury prevention on ski racers.