Spring is finally here and with it comes a new and exciting season of outdoor activities! Folks head outside to play golf, baseball, softball, soccer, or maybe just to enjoy a bike ride along trails or a quick rollerblade around town. With over 10 million sports injuries occurring each year, gear up for a successful season by easing your body into the sports season to reduce your risk of injury. Follow these tips for sports injury prevention.
Consult a Physician
Before you begin a new sport or jump back into an old one you haven't done in a while, visit your family physician. With a visit to your doctor, you can find out if old injuries have properly healed and/or ensure old injuries do not become chronic problems. If you have ever been diagnosed with heart disease, asthma, or diabetes, consult your doctor before you begin any exercise program. If you are unsure of whether or not you need to visit a physician, you can take the self-assessment tool, called the Physical Activity Readiness Questionnaire, which can help you decide if you need to talk to your doctor.
If it has been some time since participating in an activity, slowly ease into it to reduce the risk of an injury. Light exercise, like leisurely walking, can help build stamina. Gradually increase the intensity level before you actively jump into a new activity. It is important to be comfortable with moderately intense physical activity before participation in vigorous activity.
Wear the Appropriate Gear
It's fun to be outside and active, but sometimes playing sports outside means you have to wear some protective gear. If outdoor activities like cycling, rollerblading, skateboarding, softball or baseball are your games of choice, you must wear a helmet. Helmets can help protect against head injuries. In fact, studies have shown that wearing a helmet can reduce your risk of death by up to 60 percent. For proper safety, there are several types of helmets that can be worn, and it's important to use the appropriate helmet for the activity that you are participating in.
A mouth guard may be a necessary piece of protective gear for some athletes who participate in activities that could result in physical contact. If there is any chance of injury to the mouth, a mouth guard should be worn. A mouth guard should not interfere with the athlete's performance. Other types of protective gear may include elbow, wrist and knee guards, eye protection, knee pads and boys may require a cup.
Warm Up and Stretch
Warm ups and stretches go hand in hand, but it is important to remember that they are different from one another. Sports injuries are most commonly caused by improper warm ups. Warm up with a low-level activity like jump rope or jumping jacks before you stretch. Warm ups raise muscle temperatures, which prepare the whole body for physical activity, and thus reduces the risk of a sports injury. Warm up for a minimum of 5 to 10 minutes so the body can prepare for an activity.
Stretch to improve blood circulation, increase flexibility,and continue to raise muscle temperatures after a warm up. When you stretch, hold each stretch for 20-30 seconds. Each stretch should only be done once. If a person stretches a muscle before a proper warm up, the muscle will still be cold, and make the person more susceptible to injury.
Use Proper Techniques
Many sports require the use of different techniques. Learn the correct technique that is associated with a sport to lessen the risk of sports-related injuries to tendons, bones, and muscles. If you are unsure of what techniques you are supposed to use, talk with your coach or ask a professional to help you.
Take Breaks During Activities
It's important to rest during physical activities, whether it is a leisurely activity, practice or a game. Because the majority of activities in the spring are outside, precautions should be taken to avoid heat illness. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says to rest in cool, shaded places when you take a break from an activity. If possible, rest in an air-conditioned building or a heat-relief shelter in your area.
When you participate in different sports or activities, it's important to know the rules of the game so that you can play smart and safely. Know the rules to help prevent injuries from occurring. The rules of a game exist to keep the participants safe and out of harms way. If you or another person are not mentally in the game, it puts others at risk due to lack of focus. Make sure all athletes or participants have their mind in the game to help reduce the possibility of injuries.
The American Heart Association states that keeping the body hydrated assists the heart, which allows the heart to pump blood easily and helps the muscles work more efficiently. As temperatures rise, it's important to drink plenty of water. Someone who sweats heavily requires more fluid than someone who does not perspire as heavily. The American Heart Association says that for every pound of sweat that you lose, a pint of water is needed to restore the lost fluid. Water is the best beverage to drink. Avoid beverages that are filled with sugar; they cause the body to lose more fluid than when drinking water. Sports drinks could be useful to people doing vigorous activities.
Don't Play if You Are Injured
It may be difficult, but do not continue to participate in sports or activities if you have sustained an injury. It is not safe to "play through the pain" and could result in a more severe injury or a chronic problem. Allow the injury time to heal before you return to practice. Remember the RICE method when you have an injury: Rest, ice, compression, and elevation.
Take Time Off
Give yourself at least 1 or 2 days a week to take a break from your sport or activity and give your muscles a chance to repair themselves. According to the National Athletic Trainers Association, recovery time is crucial and, without rest, people are at risk for repetitive or chronic injury.
Receive Express Care at UnityPoint Clinic
UnityPoint Clinic - Express Care provides convenient and cost-effective services for the treatment of minor medical problems or injuries that require a health care provider’s attention but are not life threatening. Visit one of our four convenient locations in the Quad-Cities and Muscatine or view our wait times at unitypoint.org.
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