Writer / Bryan Mayol, MD, Sports Medicine Specialist at IU Health Saxony Hospital
Sports are a great way to exercise and have fun at the same time, and with the right exercise routine, you can minimize your chance for injuries. Dr. Bryan Mayol, a sports medicine specialist at IU Health Saxony Hospital, provides five tips for preventing sports-related injuries.
This is very important for injury prevention, much more so than stretching prior to exercise. Before stepping onto the field or court and going full speed, give yourself 15-20 minutes to get your body moving. Warming up helps loosen your joints and prepare your muscles for higher intensity work. Hamstring strains, for example, are a common sports-related injury and are less likely to happen when your muscles are warmed up. Start your warm up with a light jog or running in place to get your heart rate up. Then begin with active stretches such as toe touches, deep lunges, knee hugs and jumping jacks.
Wear the Proper Equipment
Certain sports have protective gear for a reason. Make sure your gear, including helmets, mouth guards or pads fit you properly. Gear that is too big or too small isn’t protecting your body correctly and can result in injury. Know when it’s time to replace your gear as well. If your protective gear has taken too many blows, it may not be as effective. You can contact the manufacturer for recommendations on when it’s advisable to replace your gear.
Get Enough Rest
Your body needs time to recover after a practice or a game. The micro-injuries to our tissues heal and repair as we sleep, and as a result we get stronger. When athletes do not get enough sleep, their muscles become fatigued and they are at greater risk for injury. Overuse injuries, such as shin splints, can sometimes be a result of too much physical activity in a short time and not enough rest. You cannot expect your body to perform at its best if it’s running on a low battery.
Do Not Power Through Pain
You may be making a minor injury much worse if you do this. Also, when our bodies are in pain we alter the way we do things. Changing the way you move or tackle to avoid pain can lead to a more serious injury. See a Sports Medicine physician sooner rather than later to avoid further damage, and certainly if the pain continues or makes it difficult to perform everyday activities.
Cooling down is just as important as warming up. Stretching after activity helps maintain flexibility to promote good body mechanics, and can also reduce the buildup of lactic acid from tough workouts which can make your muscles cramp and feel stiff.