Ultimate Frisbee Injuries

Ultimate Frisbee season is in full swing now! For those of you that play at a more competitive and elite level, you have most likely been playing consistently hard, and especially if you are planning on going to compete at The 2014 World Championships this August in Lecco, Italy!

World Ultimate Championships 2008

Stay Strong and Injury Free

The answer is in knowing how to train, prepare for games and recovery!


If you’ve been sidelined by previous injuries, it’s a really good idea to start up those specific 

Functional Core Strength
Physiotherapy exercises. The focus is to achieve more neuromuscular balance through appropriate stretching and strengthening of your core, power and agility muscles. If you are playing through any type of pain, then you are most likely not playing at your full potential. Are you holding back 75% to 80% because of pain or stiffness? When you play through any injury, even if it is a minor one, you can develop compensation patterns and muscle imbalances that make you more susceptible to either a traumatic or a chronic repetitive strain injury.

World Championships 2010
When I worked with a team at The 2010 World Club Championships, one of the players had partially tore his rotator cuff from aggressive layouts earlier in his Ultimate Frisbee career. Being the best at his prime he was known for his ability to layout hard for the disc all the time. 

Rotator Cuff muscle attachemnts

However, he waited too long before he sought out intervention for it and the injuries became full blown tears in his rotator cuff tendons. He shrugged off his aches and pain and stiffness to “Just playing hard”.

I also worked with another Ultimate Frisbee player that took just a couple of weeks to prepare for World Championships in Japan in 2012. He told me that he was experiencing some minor back pain throughout the summer with his job and never saw any Physiotherapy for it. After a long flight to Osaka, Japan he stepped off the plane with a sore back. After his first game he ended up herniating his lumbar L5 disc and couldn’t even walk for the rest of the week.

Being Proactive

Preparing then means to listen to your body and actually responding proactively to what it is saying to you. It means training to play. Doing an Ultimate Frisbee specific conditioning program can not only help you play stronger, layout harder, but help you last the season or make it to Worlds so that you can play your best injury free. Preparing also means doing adequate warming up and doing dynamic stretching before playing and then warming down and static stretches after you play. The most common type of injuries occurring in Ultimate is muscular strain injuries (over 76% - hamstrings, quadriceps, calves), followed then by ankle, knee, shoulder, head and rib injuries.

Core Strength

Core strengthening
If you have a strong inner core, you can prevent your hamstrings or groin muscles from being so overworked, which can lead to muscular strain. A hypermobile or unstable sacro-iliac joint (SI joint) can contribute to this. Wearing core shorts can also assist in helping you make it through the season or Worlds, but ultimately you want to strengthen your inner core correctly and ensure that your outer core functions in coordination with your strength and power and agility.


Recovery means many things. It means getting enough sleep, eating a balanced diet and getting enough protein and carbs, and that you warm down and stretch after every practice or game (stretching where you actually feel it instead of just running through the motions). The warm down phase allows you to check in with your body to see if there are any new aches & pains that you have after playing. Sometimes during a game and in the heat of the moment where you make a hard bid and layout for the disc, adrenalin is coursing through your body and you do not necessarily feel the pain. This is where you want to check in with your body.

What to Look For

If you have any new aches and pains, you can follow the “S.H.A.R.P.” rule and then apply the “R.I.C.E.” principle.

S: Swelling - Does the joint look puffy or muscle swollen more than usual after playing? Swelling can cause peripheral damage to healthy tissue surrounding the area that is affected due to the physiological / chemical response to an injury. It can also cause muscle inhibition of the muscles around the joint, which can then lead to compensated movement patterns. Limping, whether obvious or not, can cause detrimental altered movement patterns where muscles no longer work together and imbalances begin to occur.
H: Heat – Does the joint or muscle feel more warm / hot than usual?
A: Altered Function – Does it move differently than normal after playing?
R: Redness – Is there any unusual increased in redness than normal?
P: Pain – Is it more painful than normal?

If any of the following apply to you then you want to follow the “R.I.C.E.” principle.

R: Rest – This means trying no stress to the injury over the next 24-48 hours.
I: Ice – Apply a cold pack or ice with a damp cold hand towel on the area for 15 minutes and repeat it every hour for the first 24-48 hours if the swelling is particularly bad.
C: Compression – Wrap and compress the area to help control the swelling for the first 24 to 72 hours. Use a tensor bandage to wrap a cold pack or ice on the affected area.
E: Elevated –Having the affected area at or above the heart allows the swelling to drain better.

If you notice that after 72 hours that the unusual aches and pains are still there and especially if you catch saying to yourself, “I’m just going to play through it…” then it would be a really good idea to go get it checked out if you want to address the problem proactively and return to playing your best.

By getting at the root cause of your problem, we can help you connect with how you really want to move again!
World Games 2013 - Cali Columbia

Call INSYNC PHYSIO at 604-566-9716 to book your one-on-one appointment today.

Wil Seto, Registered Physiotherapist  
BHSc(PT), BSc(Kin), Dip Sport PT, Dip Ortho PT, FCAMT, CG IMS
Wil has earned degrees in Bachelor of Kinesiology and Bachelor of Health Sciences Physiotherapy (B.H.Sc. PT) from McMaster University. He is a member of the Canadian Physiotherapy Association (MCPA) and a Fellow of the Canadian Academy of Manipulative Therapists (FCAMT). In addition, he completed post-graduate studies in Advanced Manual and Manipulative Physiotherapy (Dip. Manip. PT) and Sport Physiotherapy (Dip. Sport PT), and is certified in Intramuscular Stimulation (CG IMS).
Wil has been working for over 13 years as a Physiotherapist in the Lower Mainland. He brings a great sense of joy and passion in helping people recover from their injuries and getting them back in sync with their optimal health and maximum potential for sport, work or play.

Wil retired from playing elite level Ultimate Frisbee in 2001. He now spends his time outside of the clinic working with Australian Ultimate frisbee teams since 2008 at World Championships. He has helped Australian Ultimate Frisbee teams win silver medals at World Games in 2013 - Columbia & World Championships in 2012 - Japan, & Bronze at World Championships 2010 - Prague, Cz. 


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