We play sports just as much for the action as the actual fun. They’re a way to fuel our competitive juices, and sports are also an outstanding way to get in some exercise. But more than anything, our favorite athletic competitions are about results.
The scorekeepers and statisticians aren’t the only ones who keep track of what’s going on. Any athletic contest usually includes intense competition, whether it’s a youth baseball league or a game of pickup basketball at the park. A last-second layup, late-inning RBI single, or even a rare eagle on an impossible par-5 – memorable sports competition is where great things happen.
Yet sports are also better when certain things don’t happen – for instance, sports injuries. If you emerge from a game with bragging rights AND all of your joints and limbs intact, chalk one up in the “win” column.
This blog will discuss effective methods for preventing sports injuries. Even though you can’t avoid injuries in every circumstance, you can put yourself in the best position to elude some common mishaps, regardless of your preferred activity or skill level.
Sports Injury Prevention – The Short-Term Approach
To help prepare your body for any athletic competition (or even a solo exercise routine), there are some things you can do right now. These injury prevention techniques have been shown to increase physical capacity, reduce injury rates and quicken recovery time, so you can get back in the game without the need for days or weeks of extended rest.
- Dynamic stretching. This warm-up method started as a fad, but it’s here to stay. Essentially, dynamic stretching puts your body through similar motions, stresses and movements that live sports action does, but at a more relaxed pace. Full-body dynamic stretching is preferred, and it works for a variety of sports, from bowling to badminton and beyond.
- Gear up. Some sports require protective gear, and a lot of sports-related injuries are caused by failing to properly suit up. In youth sports, injuries to the lower leg can be prevented by simply wearing shin guards, which are required in most leagues across the country. Bikers, wear your helmet. Football players, remember those rib pads. Equipment is perhaps the best tool available for avoiding sports injuries.
- Get your fluids. Dehydration doesn’t register for many people as a sports injury, but it is. The draining effects of not having enough fluids in your body can also cause cramps, muscle pulls, heart problems, heat stroke and more. This is especially important for athletes everywhere in Arizona; the state’s unforgiving heat makes hydration imperative on a year-round basis.
Sports Injury Prevention – The Longer View
If you’ve just signed up for a basketball league, that’s great news! And it’s also potentially bad news. First, the good news: you’ll not only connect with old friends (and perhaps make some new acquaintances), but you’ll benefit from the added exercise. You’re also bucking recent trends; American adults generally have poor fitness levels, partly due to low activity.
OK, now for the bad news. If you’re in your 30s or 40s and haven’t played basketball since high school, you’re susceptible to injury – much more so than you were in your late teens and 20s. That said, there are a few “big picture” tips and tricks you can follow to reduce your chance of injury. Unlike our previous set of injury prevention methods (where you only have hours or days to prepare for a sport), these are more long-term in nature. So if you have weeks or months to prepare, try this advice:
- Take training seriously. Much like the dynamic stretching techniques above, a training regimen will prepare you to not only handle the rigors of physical competition, but also reduce your chance of getting injured. A combination routine of strength training (free weights, body weight resistance exercises, etc.), cardio workouts and high-intensity interval training (HIIT) will help you perform to the best of your ability, and also get you through the upcoming season injury-free. Quick note on HIIT workouts: sprint exercises and brief, intense weightlifting are perfect for getting your metabolic rate “ramped up” anywhere from 10 to 30 times your normal capacity. This is a great way to prepare for practically any sport or activity.
- Get a sports physical. You’re probably required to anyway, but it never hurts to get an honest assessment of your physical ability well in advance of your first practice or game. Plus, your chance of sudden cardiac arrest decreases with a thorough sports physical. The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends that physicians should examine a patient’s family history to determine overall cardio fitness, given the recent spate of sudden heart attacks among young athletes. Urgent Care Extra’s multi-point, comprehensive sports physical considers vital signs and family medical history as crucial components of an athlete’s fitness capacity.
- Rest, recover, repeat. This is one of the toughest long-term injury reduction strategies to follow. Over-eager athletes always look to push the boundaries with their own physical limitations, but a disciplined regimen of rest and recovery ultimately benefits athletic performance, and also reduces the chance of minor and major injuries.
You Can’t Plan for Everything – A Note on Serious Setbacks
Meticulous planning, cut-no-corners preparation, relentless training – you can do all the research and homework you can, prepare yourself mentally and physically and still end up with a sports injury. Sometimes, there are some injuries you simply can’t prepare for.
If you happen to suffer a setback, and you’ve prepared yourself accordingly, realize that it’s not your fault, and there’s nothing you could’ve done to change your situation. A ruptured Achilles tendon, ACL tear, broken ankle and other serious injuries transcend all the injury prevention groundwork and planning.
Even “non-serious” situations can put your athletic endeavors on the shelf for a few weeks. Consider the simple, harmless sneeze. Well, maybe it’s not so harmless, after all. More than a few Major League Baseball players have landed on the disabled list due to sneezing – Padres pitcher Mat Latos in 2010, and Blue Jays outfielder Kevin Pillar in 2015.
Moral of the story: even the world’s best athletes aren’t immune to the injury bug, both on and off the field!
Urgent Care Extra – Affordable Sports Physicals for the Entire Family
UCE offers sports physicals at all of our walk-in healthcare clinics. Our medical professionals work with many Arizona sports leagues, associations and other organizations to ensure every athlete is physically fit enough to play to their peak capacity. Also called a pre-participation exam (PPE), our physical examination includes vital sign assessment, previous injury analysis, flexibility tests and much more.
Best of all, our sports physicals are just $25 at all of our urgent care facilities. No appointment needed – just walk right in and we’ll take care of you! Urgent Care Extra is proud to partner with athletes all across the state, and our sports physical examinations are second to none. For more information about our exams, or for any other questions, please call our medical team at (480) 988-9108.