Preventing and Healing Sports Injuries
Spring has sprung for the most part and it’s time to get out and heed the advice to get active for all the health benefits exercise has to offer. But for some – particularly those known as “weekend warrior” athletes – a little caution is required.
If you have been inactive through most of the last few months due to weather and other commitments, don’t try to make up for it now tenfold on your weekends. You’ll no doubt pay for it on Monday mornings, full of aches and pains and even injuries that can impact your work and other daily routines. Nagging knee pain, aching backs or some other ignored injuries stem from a combination of overuse and poor flexibility, not necessarily accidents.
Avoiding these injuries requires intelligent prevention. If you have enough energy to scale a rock face or put in 50 miles on the road bike in a single weekend, then you should have the sense to at least stretch before and after each adventure. Don’t ignore reoccurring symptoms and seek help when an injury is new.
Check to see if you have the proper equipment for your level of expertise in the particular sport and also the proper clothing, especially supportive footwear. As shock absorbers, feet are subjected to nearly one million pounds of pressure during one hour of strenuous exercise. Proper footwear is important to cushion these loads. Different sports have different requirements so it is beneficial to wear sports-specific shoes
Remember fatigue has been shown to be a significant risk factor in athletic injuries. It is important to not try to push through pain or continue exercising or playing when tired or exhausted. Pain usually indicates a problem or potential underlying injury. It is really important to pay attention to the warning signs that your body provides.
Sprains and Strains
A sprain is a stretch or tear of a ligament, the band of connective tissues that joins the end of one bone with another. A strain is a twist, pull, or tear of a muscle or tendon, a cord of tissue connecting muscle to bone.
The knee is the most commonly injured joint, because of its complex structure and weight-bearing capacity. Every year more than 5.5 million people visit doctors for knee problems.
This refers to pain along the tibia or shin bone, the large bone in the front of the lower leg and primarily seen in runners, particularly those just starting a running program.
Achilles Tendon Injuries
This injury results from a stretch, tear, or irritation to the tendon connecting the calf muscle to the back of the heel and is common in those who may not exercise regularly or take time to stretch properly beforehand.
A fracture is a break in the bone that can occur from either a quick, one-time injury to the bone (acute fracture) or more commonly from repeated stress to the bone over time (stress fracture).
This is when the two bones that come together to form a joint become separated as a result of excessive stretching or falling. A dislocated joint is an emergency situation that requires medical treatment.
And if you do end up in a crisis, RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation) are the important four steps to follow right after, for at least 48 hours, to relieve pain, reduce swelling and speed healing:
- Rest. Reduce your regular activities. If you’ve injured your foot, ankle, or knee, take weight off of it with the help of crutches.
- Ice. Put a cold pack or ice bag on the injured area for 20 minutes, four to eight times a day. You can also use a plastic bag filled with crushed ice and wrapped in a towel.
- Compression. Put even pressure (compression) on the injured area to help reduce swelling. You can use an elastic wrap, special boot, air cast, or splint. Ask your doctor which one is best for your injury.
- Elevation. Put the injured area on a pillow, at a level above your heart, to help reduce swelling.
The good news is that most sports injuries can be treated effectively and most people can return to a satisfying level of physical activity after an injury. Even better, research has shown that injury rates may be lowered by as much as 25% if a few precautions are taken.