Whether you just like to shoot some hoops on the weekend or you’re training a triathlon, if you participate in sports there are a range of injuries that you’re at higher risk for than your average couch potato. Don’t worry—we’re definitely not saying that avoiding injury is worth giving up the numerous health benefits of an active lifestyle. It’s just important to be aware of the kinds of injuries that are common to your preferred sport or form of exercise. Here are some tips to help make sure you’re playing it safe.
Know the Risks of Your Sport
Every activity, from golf to downhill skiing, comes with its own distinct risks. The kind of injury you’re most likely to face depends on the types of motions that you perform and the muscles and body parts that you’re exerting the most. For example, activities like contact football and weightlifting have more risk of injuries to the back and neck, while people who play sports like soccer and tennis tend to experience joint injuries. Even that can be broken down further—you aren’t likely to get “tennis elbow” playing soccer, but an injury like a sprained ankle or strained calf should be on your radar.
Practice Proper Form
If you aren’t working with a coach or trainer, incorrect form can increase your risk both of acute injury and of cumulative damage to your tissues or joints. New to a sport? Even if you don’t want to pay for regular access to a trainer, it’s a good idea to go to a workshop or purchase a few sessions with a trainer to make sure that you’re starting off right. Even if you’re an experienced player, it’s a good idea to periodically check in on your form. You can practice in front of a mirror, or have a friend or teammate evaluate you. Another option: Record some video so you can review your movements. This can make it easier to spot areas where you could use a tune-up.
Even if you’re doing every part of a motion properly, all athletes to be aware of the potential for damage caused by overexertion. We tend to value attributes like “playing through the pain” or breaking out of your comfort zone. While this might help your team or let you set a new PR, it’s not always great for your body. When you start to feel tired or strained, instead of pushing on it may be wiser to back off. You should be aware of the limits of your body, and recognize when it isn’t safe to keep pushing those limits. Be sure you’re giving yourself at least two to three rest days from intense physical activity every week. If you’re feeling especially strained, give your body the opportunity to recuperate through massage or heat therapy. Last, be sure that you’re eating correctly to support healing, bone strength, and muscle growth, and that you stay hydrated all the time (not just when you’re working up a sweat!).
Are you looking for help with an acute or chronic sports injury? The staff at the new Sports Medicine Clinic at the Spine Institute Northwest can help with expert advice and minimally invasive treatments. Call us at 253-313-1801 to learn more.