Sport. Education. Fierte. RSEQ


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- Injury statistics
- Tips for preventing injuries (prevention measures)
- Equipment

- Prevention measures
- Safety rules
- Emergency measures
- First Aid kit
- Roadmap – Haddon Matrix
- Useful links & references

Injury statisticsTop of page

Did you know that in 2012 cross-country was the most popular sport among student athletes at the elementary and high school level in the RSEQ, with over 36,000 participants[1]? However, in Québec nearly four out of ten suffer injuries related to foot races[2].

Cross-country consists of running outdoors distances varying between three and twelve kilometres, depending on the participants. Runners must tackle surfaces that vary according to obstacles on the course, such as tree trunks, mounds of earth, and so forth.

As cross-country is one of the track and field disciplines, according to most sports organizations*, there is no specific data on injuries related to this sport. Nevertheless, you can refer to data available on foot races in general. According to the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medecine (AOSSM), the main injuries related to foot races are:

  • Tendinitis (knee and hip)
  • Periostitis (leg)
  • Stress fracture (leg)
  • Plantar fasciitis (inflammation of the ligament that supports the plantar arch)
  • Sprained ankle
  • Stretched thigh muscles
  • Growth plate disturbance, particularly in the thigh
  • Injuries to the groin and toes
  • Pain in the kneecap, calves, heels and buttock muscles
  • Blisters
  • Heatstroke, sunstroke, skin reactions to the sun and dehydration

*Please note that the RSEQ considers cross-country as a sport in itself, making it a distinct track and field sport.

Tips for preventing injuriesTop of page

Lowering the risk of injury is everyone’s concern. And the coach has an important role to play, as well as the athlete. Remember, to keep sports injuries at bay, you need to take action – before, during and after an event. So, get out there and play!

Off season:

  • Follow a program of preparatory training consisting of cardiovascular, muscle and flexibility exercises.
  • With your coach’s help, set realistic objectives and approach them step by step to make sure you do it safely.
  • Keep your coach informed about your state of health, such as any health problems, medication you might be taking, if you wear contact lenses, and so forth.
  • Spend time mastering technique.

Before a practice:

  • Always warm up first, in order to raise your body’s temperature which in turn will prepare your joints for a workout.

During the event:

  • Keep yourself hydrated. When you’re feeling thirsty, that means you’re already dehydrated. And when you’re dehydrated, your performance may suffer, which could cause you to forget your technique and thus increase your risk of injury.
  • Increase your running speed gradually.
  • Wear the right equipment.
  • Immediately report an injury or sickness to your coach as soon as symptoms appear.
  • Follow your coach’s advice and respect the rules of fair play, in order to avoid unnecessary contact.

After the event:      

  • Stretch to cool your body down properly and maintain flexibility
  • Make sure you get enough rest and recovery time to fully recuperate from your training. (To learn more, see our section on sleep).

Equipment Top of page

  • Running shoes
  • Clothing suitable for the weather.
  • Light clothing that wicks away perspiration.
  • A cap or bandana on your head to protect it from the sun or cold.

Cross-country is a sport that does not need much equipment. Nevertheless, it is crucial to choose running shoes carefully to avoid getting injured as much as possible. Making the right choice be difficult, as there are so many new technologies and materials on the market today. To find out more, please see the document Keep It Safe! – Sports Shoes from the Ministère de l’Éducation, du Loisir et du Sport.

Prevention measures Top of page

As coach, you are responsible for your athletes’ safety. While not all accidents can be avoided, your role is to try as much as possible to prevent them from happening. Reducing the risk of injuries requires taking action and making strategic choices throughout the year.

Some of the ways you can reach your young athletes:

  • Encourage them to follow a program of physical preparation.
  • Help your athletes set realistic objectives.
  • Respect the principles of training. For more information, see part 1 of Chapter 3 of the IAAF Medical Manual.
  • Make sure to increase the level of difficulty in your practices bit by bit so as to reduce the risk of injuries due to overuse and overtraining. Your practices should always take participants’ skill, age, experience and health into consideration
  • Encourage them to get enough sleep, especially after particularly intensive training. This will go a long way to helping your athletes’ bodies recover.
  • Begin each practice with a warm-up period.
  • Take time to practise the principle sports movements.
  • Adapt your practices to weather conditions when outdoors (factors such as high heat, humidity, and strong winds).
  • Give your players some advice on what kind of footwear to choose.
  • Keep abreast of the state of your athletes’ health.
  • Teach them about the rules and spirit of sport, providing examples.

In addition, prevention measures regarding facilities and equipment will be touched upon in the following section on safety rules.

Safety rulesTop of page

Each sport has its own, specific safety standards. In general, they are concerned with facilities and equipment, but they also touch on training, education, sports managers’ responsibilities, organizing and running a competition, as well as sanctions in the event rules are not respected. In Québec, each sports federation has defined the safety standards specific to their sport.

Please see the rules specific to in-stadium and ex-stadia safety standards [JW1] from the Fédération québécoise d’athlétisme (in French).

Emergency measuresTop of page

Some injuries progress over time due to repetition of a movement or sudden change in the intensity of training. This may happen from overtraining or from an injury resulting from overuse. But some injuries happen suddenly, as in the case of accidents. What is the best way to respond in such a situation?

Being able to respond effectively and quickly in the event of an accident is a matter of being prepared. When accidents happen, you can’t count on your good intentions alone! In the event an emergency occurs, you must first have devised an emergency plan so you’ll have at hand all the information you need and a procedure to follow. According to the Coaching Association of Canada, this plan should include – at the very least – the following:

  • Access to phones
  • Access paths to the site
  • Information about participants
  • Information about staff

Each of these sections will contain information to add to your plan. To find out what they are, see the Sample Emergency Action Plan Checklist from the Coaching Association of Canada.

For more information, see the section on injuries.

First Aid kitTop of page

A First Aid kit must always be replenished and available to all staff in charge of the athletes. The Coaching Association of Canada has a list of everything that should be found in a Sample First Aid Kit, including a description of their uses.

Roadmap – Haddon MatrixTop of page

Who is Haddon?

William Haddon is an American researcher, physician and engineer, who in the 1960s developed an approach for controlling injuries related to practising physical activities.

The matrix may serve as a roadmap for coaches. It provides them with a one-stop place to see all the parameters to control, taking into account the many factors (human, technological and environmental) in a time frame (before, during and after an event).

Haddon Matrix: Cross-country

References and useful linksTop of page

  • Fédération québécoise d’athlétisme

          (Chapter 3, part 1)

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