Sports injuries happen for two main reasons: trauma and overuse. Usually, a traumatic injury such as a bone fracture or ACL tear will be obvious—after falling or colliding with another player, you will immediately experience severe pain. On the other hand, you can gradually develop an overuse injury, such as runner’s knee or tennis elbow, if you push your body beyond its physical limits over time. This can occur due to inadequate warmup, improper technique, excessive training, or repetitive activity. While overuse injuries may not be as easy to recognize as traumatic injuries, they are more common.
Peter D. Vizzi, MD, a board-certified orthopedic surgeon and sports medicine specialist who practices in Lafayette, Louisiana, treats many athletes and other active individuals for sports-related injuries. To help you avoid getting hurt during your active pursuits, he offers the following sports injury prevention tips:
Take Care of Your Body
Fatigue can lead to a sports-related injury, mainly because it can affect your awareness, perception, and control of your body. Therefore, in addition to getting sufficient rest, it is essential to stay well hydrated, eat appropriate foods to fuel your body, and slow down or stop when you feel tired.
Warm Up & Cool Down Properly
Before every game or workout, you should always warm up your muscles, which will reduce the likelihood that they will be strained during your activity. There is no single right way to do so; rather, a good warm-up is sports-specific, which means it includes stretches and dynamic core exercises that emulate what you will be doing and move the muscle groups that you will be using. In general, a strong core is key to injury prevention: The energy and momentum needed for your activity will evenly distribute from your large core muscles, making it less likely for your other muscles to be overworked and injured.
Equally important to a warm-up is a proper cool-down after exercise. An effective cool-down consists of approximately 10 minutes of easy exercises that are similar to the activity you just performed. For instance, after you finish playing a game of soccer, which usually involves continual running, you can cool down with 10 minutes of light walking. Also, be sure to stretch the muscles you worked, breathe deeply, drink plenty of water, and refuel your body with an easily digested snack, such as a banana, a serving of yogurt, or a glass of low-fat chocolate milk.
Specializing in a single sport year-round can improve your performance, but it can also harm your body by allowing both overuse and cumulative injuries to develop and progress. Athletes who participate in multiple sports, such as running, swimming, and cycling, distribute the wear and tear of these activities on their bodies more evenly. As such, sports diversity is critical to injury prevention.
Establish Realistic, Achievable & Sustainable Goals
Don’t push yourself too hard too fast. If you plan to begin exercising regularly or would like to start a new sport, meet with a physician first to discuss your options. Also, learn the proper techniques required for your activity. Once you get started, be sure to allow adequate time for your bones, joints, and muscles to adjust to the new stresses before increasing your training level. Finally, always listen to your body. While a mild and short-lived muscle ache is a healthy and expected result of exercise, anything more than that is probably a sign that you should cut back and give your body an opportunity to recover.
If you need help with a sports injury, contact Dr. Vizzi’s office in Lafayette, LA, to request a consultation.