Avoiding Injuries While Enjoying Summer Activities
Summer is the season when many competitive athletes and weekend warriors are most physically active. While it’s a great time to enjoy the outdoors, the increase in physical activity can put individuals at risk for injury. In fact, many emergency rooms across the country call the three-month period that follows spring “trauma season.” But whether you’re jumping back into a sport after taking a long time off or trying to be active in the summer heat, there are things you can do to avoid getting hurt.
Common Injuries Related to Sports
One of the biggest causes of injury in any sport is the 3 T’s – too much, too soon, too fast. People tend to be less active during the winter, and when the warm weather lures them out they attempt to jump right into their previous level of physical activity. This makes the body susceptible to injury in all sorts of ways. When movement patterns are repeated over and over again, our muscles and ligaments begin to wear down. When you jump straight into a sport without giving the body time to adjust, this breakdown can become worse. This affects everyone regardless of experience level, hitting experienced athletes to weekend warriors alike.
To prevent these types of injuries, it’s important to start back slow with sports and activities. It takes time to build up strength and tolerance, even if you participated in other activities during the winter. Make sure to pay attention to nagging soreness in your joints, and visit a qualified sports medicine physician if it doesn’t go away to help pinpoint the issue that’s causing the pain.
Common Injuries Related to the Heat
During the summer, people participating in hard physical activity should begin all exercise sessions well hydrated. Good nutrition and hydration is a good way to keep muscles working efficiently, and allows you to avoid problems like cramps and pulled muscles. This means pre-hydrating with 17-20 ounces of fluid 2 hours before exercise and consuming another 7-10 ounces of fluid 30 minutes before exercising. If the activity lasts less than 45 minutes, water should work well enough to keep you hydrated. However, if the exercise lasts longer than 45 minutes, athletes should consume some post-exercise carbohydrates, either in a sports drink, energy bar, snack, or meal. To avoid the high sugar content in most sports drinks, try using half water instead.
Athletes also need to be aware of how long they’ve been exercising in the summer sun. Many people who get heat illness don’t realize it until they end up in the hospital. On hot days, athletes should check themselves and their teammates for signs of heat stress, such as bright red skin, lack of sweat, and cold/clammy skin. Wearing light-colored clothing and hats that wick away water and allow your skin to breath are best in keeping you cool, so avoid those dark cotton t-shirts!
Preventing and Treating Injuries
If you have sustained an injury in the past, you may have heard of RICE – Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation. Athletes have been using this for decades to treat sprains and other injuries, but too much can be a bad thing. According to current sport researchers, icing too much can impair the inflammatory response, which is the body’s way of healing the problem. It’s OK to apply ice for up to 10 minutes, but make sure to take a 20-minute break before re-applying. Athletes should stop icing after six hours and visit a doctor if the pain persists – and if the pain lasts for more than 48 hours, you should seek professional medical attention.
To avoid injuries from occurring, make sure that you are using the correct footwear. One of the most effective ways to prevent injury is to wear the proper shoes, so make sure you’re playing the sport a specific shoe is meant for and on the surface it’s meant for. It’s also important to look for shoes that are supportive, especially if you have flat feet or pronate when you walk. The typical athletic shoe is only build to last 350 to 500 miles, so make sure to change your footwear to properly support and cushion your feet.
One of the easiest ways to prevent injuries from occurring is to be mindful of what you’re doing and how your body feels. For runners, being mindful of where and how you run can be just as important as proper footwear. If you always run in the road in the same direction, you’re always landing with one foot higher than the other foot. This can create an imbalance in your body, as well as predisposing you to tendonitis. An easy fix is to vary your training ground, choosing to run on trails or grassy areas instead of hitting the pavement each time.
The best way to prevent injuries, however, is to make sure your body is ready to perform. Training before your season can help build strength and endurance in your muscles, so find workouts with movements similar to your sport. Whether you prefer to golf, run, or swim, bad technique and poor form can result in both acute injuries like pulled muscles and chronic injuries like tendonitis. If you can’t afford a private session with a trained professional, try finding an experienced friend or someone who is familiar with the sport. Lastly, make sure you warm up your body prior to playing with dynamic movements that get your heart pumping. Like making sure that your body is hydrated, this will help avoid problems like cramping and pulled muscles.
Sidelined by a sports injury or orthopaedic condition? Our award-winning fellowship-trained providers are here to help you return to your active life! We invite you to call us at 703.444.5000 or click here to request an appointment with one of the physicians at Arthritis & Sports. To stay up-to-date on the latest news and tips from us, be sure to follow us on Facebook and Instagram, and sign up for our monthly newsletter for even more information sent straight to your inbox!