Do you love the time spent on the field but are worried about how sports injuries could take you out of the game? It doesn’t matter if you are a professional athlete or a weekend warrior – sports injuries can take a toll on your overall health and wellness.
The good news is that a few proactive steps can go a long way to minimizing the risk of injuring yourself in the game. Additionally, sports medicine is a great way to not only avoid sports injuries but also improve your performance overall.
Working with a sports medicine doctor makes it possible to get stronger, run faster, and train harder without increasing your risk of injury.
Here are a few of the best tips for preventing sports injuries that every athlete should follow:
Always Warm Up
Never start a game without putting in a little time to warm up first. When you warm up, it wakes up the muscles, boosts blood flow, and increases the heart rate. These changes are essential for preventing injury while you are playing the game.
Ideally, your warm-up should be a minimum of 5 – 10 minutes, focusing on light cardio. First, warm up the body enough that you are starting to break a sweat.
Warm-up exercises should mimic the movements you will be doing in the game. But make sure that it is low-intensity.
Stretch Those Muscles
Once you have moved through 5 – 10 minutes of warm-up, the warm muscles are in the perfect condition to stretch. There are two types of stretches you can use:
- Dynamic Stretches: Stretching the muscles while also moving the body in different ways, based on your functional range of motion.
- Static Stretches: Holding each stretching position for 10 to 30 seconds.
Ideally, you can use a combination of both static and dynamic stretches. Focus on the areas of the body where you are feeling stiffness. Also, prioritize the muscles that will be used a lot during sports activities.
Pay Attention to the Body
When you notice aches and pains sneaking in, recognize that these cues are simple signals the body sends to you. Instead of pushing through the pain to the point of injury, respect the fact that you might need to slow down or take a break.
Every athlete knows that aches and pains are unavoidable. However, most of the time, these sensations are simply uncomfortable and will go away within a day or two.
But if the pain intensifies, or you notice that things are not improving within a few days, then it could be a sign that you have an injury.
Also, pay attention to how tired and sore your body feels before a workout. For example, if you pushed hard in training yesterday, it might be best to take a day off or do something light. Skipping proper recovery time can increase the likelihood of an injury.
Cool Down After a Game or Training Session
Once the game is over, your mind is already moving on to the next activity. Often, the cooldown period is the most forgotten part of the workout. But you shouldn’t miss this step!
Cooling down is essential to help you bring down the heart rate, let the body relax, and encourage the muscles to move back into their resting state.
The ideal cooldown is similar to the warming-up recommendations. First, spend 5 – 10 minutes on low-intensity cardio movement. Then, another 5 – 10 minutes for stretching.
When you are proactive about prioritizing a cooldown period, it reduces the risk of delayed muscle soreness. Also, cooling down can help avoid injury risks in future workouts because your body is more prepared to get back in the game.
Know Your Limits
The risk of injury increases when you push your body beyond your limits. Even though you are motivated to meet a specific milestone or perform in a certain way, it’s essential that you follow the proper progression in your training.
Doing too much, too fast, will push your body beyond your limits and capabilities. The result is a higher likelihood of injury.
So, instead of jumping in too quickly, it’s better to increase your intensity and training time slowly. Most sports medicine doctors agree that a 5% increase in exercise is a relatively safe plan for progression.
Consider Overall Lifestyle
When you are proactive with other healthy habits, it shows up in your performance on the sports field. For example, a good night’s sleep makes all the difference to ensuring your mind is fresh and your body is in good condition. Many of the repair and recovery functions happen within the body while you are sleeping.
In fact, some athletes feel like their performance is hindered when they are too tired. If you are running on a lack of sleep, then there is a higher likelihood you will make a mistake on the field – which could result in an injury.
A healthy diet is another important lifestyle factor that should be considered. You need the ideal balance of macronutrients to ensure your performance in the game: protein, fats, and carbohydrates. On the other hand, if you are eating too much sugar or processed food, then it could result in decreased cardiovascular performance.
Drink Plenty of Water
Not only do you need to stay hydrated to replace the sweat that you are losing, but hydration also reduces the risk of fatigue and overheating. Always have a water bottle on hand. Drink water throughout the game, and also make sure you are drinking throughout the day, so you are well-hydrated when it’s time to step onto the field.
Sometimes, plain water isn’t enough. Consider keeping Gatorade or coconut water on hand so you can replace the electrolytes you are losing in the game.
Use the Proper Equipment
Quality equipment goes a long way to protect against injuries. Depending on the sports activities, you will want pads and helmets. Additionally, invest in quality shoes to ensure that you have a solid foundation to support the rest of your body.
It’s an investment to buy quality sports equipment, but worth the cost because of the safety that it brings.
Talk to an Orthopedic Doctor
Early intervention is one of the best ways to avoid serious injuries in the future. If you recognize small signs of an injury, it’s best to work with a sports medicine doctor immediately.
Additionally, our sports medicine doctors can partner with athletes to help with injury prevention. Proper training and preventive treatments can go a long way to keep you at peak performance.
You’re always welcome to talk to us at Orthopedic Associates for more information about preventing sports injuries. Our full-service treatments are available for people of all ages. Contact us to schedule an appointment. Call any time if you have questions: (972) 420-1776.