According to the Department of Health and Human Services, approximately two million people endure sports-related injuries and seek treatment in emergency rooms annually. Whether it is immediate or gradual, there is always risk of injury to the body’s joints, muscles and bones in any sport or activity, especially those involving high-impact. Such high-impact activities or sports include but are not limited to football, baseball, basketball, soccer, hockey, gymnastics, jogging, and boxing. As the season begins for many of these high-impact sports, it is imperative to be aware of these alarming statistics and to educate yourself and your children on ways to decrease the chances of injury.
If you are participating in any high-impact activities or sports this season, be sure to take the following steps to avoid an injury:
- Warm up/cool down and stretch: Loosening your muscles and joints before entering a high-intensity activity is a vital step to avoid injury. Set aside 5-10 minutes before your workout begins for light cardio to get your body loose and your circulation up. After your workout, you should also give yourself at least 5 minutes to walk it off or cool down. By doing this, the body will experience less soreness, tension and strain of the muscles and joints. Stretching all parts of the body will provide complete range and flexibility of your joints and improve your workout, lessening the risk of injury. Stretching is imperative during and after the warm up and cool down periods, when your body is warm and loose.
- Wear proper gear: During physical activity, you are safest when wearing the proper equipment. For example, wearing poorly supportive footwear during physical activities can change the way you walk, causing major damage to your feet as well as your ankles, legs, knees, hips and back. Be sure to wear the correct footwear and any protective equipment required in your chosen activity to avoid damage to bones and joints.
- Stay hydrated and maintain a healthy diet: Drinking ample water is both necessary and extremely beneficial to various aspects of your wellbeing. Along with many other advantages, drinking water is found to promote healthy joints. Proper water intake provides lubrication and hydration to the cartilage of the joints, which eases movement and reduces pain. For proper health and functioning, your joints also require nutrition from a balanced diet that includes vitamin D and calcium intake.
- Get involved in weight training: While cardio activity is great for the body and trimming fat, it is very important that you also focus on building muscle. Without overdoing it, try lifting weights and strengthening your core as a way to build stronger muscles that will ultimately provide more support and protection to your joints when participating in higher impact activities. Often, the best person to discuss this with is an athletic trainer at your gym.
- Know your limits: It is very important that you do not overwork your body, especially any problem areas. Rest is vital because it allows your body to heal properly and completely, allowing it to become stronger. A day or two of rest or light workouts will ultimately provide the desired strength for further workouts and decrease the chance of injury due to a body that is tired and overworked.
With fall sports underway with sports-related injuries at such a high, it is vital that you take the proper precautionary efforts to avoid an injury and guarantee a safe and fun season. If you experience any unusual pain or uncomfortable feelings during a workout, a game or training, I encourage you to visit your local physician immediately. This will allow for proper evaluation and treatment, if necessary.
Dr. Tauro is a board-certified orthopedic surgeon at Ocean County Sports Medicine, located in Toms River, NJ. He specializes in the prevention and treatment of sports injuries and degenerative joint conditions, and is recognized worldwide as an innovator in the development of advanced minimally-invasive treatment methods and procedures. Dr. Tauro also serves as Associate Professor of Orthopedics at Rutgers Medical School. More information on Dr. Tauro and his practice can be found at www.oceancountysportsmedicine.com or by calling (732) 341-6226.
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