Spring is finally here and with it a new and exciting season of spring sports! But springing into the spring sports season without preparing your body for the physical demands of intense physical activity can lead to a number of potential season - or career-ending injuries. With over 10 million sports injuries occurring each year, gearing up for a successful season ahead means easing your body into the sports season to reduce your risk of injury. Follow these preventive steps from UnityPoint Clinic to help cover your bases and up your chances of hitting this season out of the ballpark!
Schedule a Pre-Participation Physical Exam
Pre-participation physical exams prior to training or competing can help to promote the health and safety of athletes of all ages and physical abilities – even if it isn’t required. Whether you are signing up your child for little league or you yourself will be taking center field, scheduling a pre-participation exam with your primary care physician is important for identifying potential medical conditions that may place you or your child’s health at risk, as well as find any medical or physical problems that could be corrected to make participation more beneficial.
Take Precautionary Measures
While there is no magical formula for preventing all sports injury from occurring, the good news is that many injuries can be avoided with a little preparation. No matter which sport you play, preventing sports injuries starts with taking important precautionary steps, including:
Warm Up & Stretch Out
The best way to prevent sports injury from occurring is to be in proper physical condition. Practice will help you learn and reinforce proper technique, as well as condition to help strengthen muscles used when playing the sport. Before and after practices and games, be sure to warm up and cool down your muscles by taking a light, five-minute light jog and stretching out targeted muscle groups to release tension and reduce stiffness. Stretch into a position where you feel a muscle being activated, then hold, without bounding, for 20 to 30 seconds. Repeat for both sides of the body.
Preparing your body for the game through practice is an important defense against injury – and it should always be done with the appropriate protective gear. No matter if you are playing in the comfort of your backyard or lacing up for the big game, all athletes require certain equipment to protect their bodies. Before engaging in any athletic activity, make sure you adhere to the following safety recommendations:
- Wear appropriate clothing for the weather, as well as sunscreen when playing outdoors
- Get all equipment properly fitted and sized before season starts (padding, helmets, mouthpieces, face guards, protective cups and/or eyewear)
- Allow enough time to ”break in” new equipment
- Wear comfortable shoes that contain proper cushioning and arch support
Take Time Off
Rest should be a critical part of your training regime. Research shows that having a high number of consecutive days training is one of the biggest risk factors for sports injury. Taking one or two recovery days each week will help to reduce injury rates by giving muscles and connective tissues a chance to repair in between training sessions. Additionally, be sure to take an off-season of at least 10 consecutive weeks of rest from any one sport each year.
Be Prepared for Injury
Unfortunately, accidents and injuries are an inevitable risk athletes run as they train for and play out the season. While it’s extremely important to take the appropriate precautionary measures to reduce your risk, it is equally important to be prepared in the event that a sports injury does occur.
If an injury should occur, identification early on is crucial in preventing more serious damage. Though the best first step is always to seek professional medication attention, you may want to ask the following questions of your injury to indicate whether or not it deserves a second look:
- How did the injury occur? Was there a sudden and sharp pain when injury occurred?
- How does the injury look? Is there swelling that has not diminished? Is the skin irritated? Is there an open wound?
- What is the pain level? Does it interfere with your ability to walk, sit, climb stairs or sleep? Can you feel the affected area?
Pushing through pain of a sports injury is the fastest way for your injury to worsen into a more serious condition. If you have concerns or your injury worsens, please cease all physical activity and schedule an appointment with your primary care physician.
Urgent & Walk-In Care for Sports Injuries
In the case that scheduling an appointment with your doctor is not an option, you can rely on UnityPoint Clinic’s fully-staffed Urgent Care/Walk-In Clinics for on-the-spot after hour, weekend and holiday care of a full range of non-emergency sports injuries – because no matter when and where accidents and injuries occur, we’re here to make sure you have access to quality care to get you back on track to a winning sports season ahead. Use our online Find a Clinic tool to locate efficient and effective sports injury care near you!