Regular exercise is one of the best things you can do for your overall health, and organized sports are a great way to maintain that routine. But physical activity also wears down your muscles and joints, so if you don’t prep your body before each workout or game, you may be putting yourself at risk for a sports injury.
At Regency Pain & Therapy Institute in Mansfield, Texas, our team of sports injury specialists sees all types of injuries, from mild sprains to severe rotator cuff and ACL tears. While some sports injuries can heal with simple treatments, such as the RICE method (rest, ice, compression, and elevation), others may require long-term physical therapy and even surgery.
Most sports injuries fall into one of two categories: acute traumatic injury or gradual overuse injury. As always, preventive measures are far better than treatments, so we encourage all athletes to follow five simple tips to avoid sports injuries and stay in the game.
1. Stay in shape
It may seem surprising that we need to tell athletes to stay in shape, but we see many injuries that result from improper training. If you’re a distance runner, you’ll train differently than a volleyball player, and swimmers need a different workout than football players.
Each sport relies on different muscle groups and requires different movements. The stronger your body is, the more prepared it will be to handle trauma, and the more likely it is to stave off overuse injuries.
In addition to strengthening your general musculoskeletal system, it’s important to understand and precisely execute the proper technique for your sport. For example, overhead movements used in swim strokes, volleyball sets and hits, and pitching a baseball, can lead to a rotator cuff tear if not executed properly.
2. Warm up and cool down
Cold muscles tear easily. Get in the habit of stretching and doing some light cardio before diving into competition. A proper warm-up period increases your heart rate and delivers oxygenated blood to your muscle tissue, which means you’ll be more limber and flexible at game time.
When the game or workout ends, it’s just as important to cool your body down as it is to warm up beforehand. Gentle stretches help rid your body of lactic acid that builds up when you exercise. A good cool down can help you avoid sore muscles, fatigue, and cramps.
3. Listen to your body and rest
Most athletes tend to push their bodies to the limit, and that’s fine — as long as you know and don’t exceed your limits. Your body communicates when you’re approaching its boundaries with:
- Shortness of breath
When you experience these — stop. These are the warning signs that an injury is about to happen. Stressed joints, muscles, and ligaments are prime targets for injury, so schedule rest days between activities. That’s why baseball pitchers don’t throw both games of a doubleheader and why weightlifters alternate the body parts they work on.
In addition to guarding against heat exhaustion and heat stroke, proper hydration also affects your athletic performance. Your body perspires when you exert yourself to regulate your temperature, but there’s also a direct link between the amount of fluid you sweat out and your ability to perform athletically.
Studies show that losing just 2% of your body weight through perspiration affects your physical and mental capacities. If you become dehydrated, your blood volume drops, you sweat less, and your blood pressure decreases. Signs of dehydration include: hyperventilation, fatigue, cramping, vomiting, diarrhea, and seizures.
5. Play safe
Taking safety seriously can prevent numerous sports injuries. Unfortunately, because most athletes are strong and capable, they tend to feel invincible. But helmets and other protective gear can save your game and your life.
And safety encompasses more than just equipment. Other ways to play it safe include:
- Increasing intensity incrementally
- Cross training to round out your workout
- Setting realistic goals
- Studying and applying proper technique
- Getting proper nutrition
Exercise is an excellent way to maintain your overall health, but it can do more harm than good if you’re not fully prepared.
If you end up with a sports injury, expert medical care is key. A proper diagnosis can let you know whether conservative at-home treatments will get you through or if you need medically supervised care. Our team specializes in sports injuries, and we use the latest technology and techniques to get you off the DL and back in the game as quickly as possible.
Through physical therapy, anti-inflammatory medications, and regenerative medicine, we ensure your body heals properly and completely so you can avoid reinjuring yourself when you resume activity.
To learn more about our sports injury treatments, call Regency Pain & Therapy Institute at 817-435-1642 today.