Stay in the game: Avoid sports injuries this summer- Dean - WI

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Published on May 16, 2017

Stay in the game: Avoid sports injuries this summer

Wisconsin summers offer seemingly endless options for sports lovers. But nothing can spoil summer faster than a nagging injury. SSM Health athletic trainer Betsy Kerrigan offers her advice on staying off the sidelines.

Ease-in to avoid issues

As the weather warms up, more folks are making the most of the season by

Betsy Kerrigan, athletic trainer at

SSM Health St. Clare Hospital

heading out for longer rides, runs and more. Add in the height of high school baseball and softball seasons, and Kerrigan sees a wide range of sports-related injuries.

“This time of year we tend to see more lower extremity injuries like shin splints, patellofemoral syndrome (runner’s knee), ankle sprains, etc.,” says Kerrigan. “Spring sports like baseball and softball also bring a higher chance for upper extremity overuse injuries like epicondylitis (tennis elbow) and rotator cuff injuries.”

Sprains, shin splints and overuse injuries are all painful and could require extra rest that area athletes aren’t willing to take, so prevention is the best medicine.

“Always start slow and build up gradually,” says Kerrigan. “Give your body time to adapt to new activities and the physical stress you’re placing on it. Make sure that as you build your exercise routine, you also fuel your body with good nutrition and hydration.”

When working your way back into an activity, use the “10 percent” rule. Gradually increase your activity by no more than 10 percent each week. Apply the rule to frequency, intensity and/or length of workouts.

Kerrigan adds that proper warm up and cool down routines are also essential to avoiding injury. Plan to warm up for at least 10 minutes before your start exercising and to cool down for at least 10 minutes once you are finished.

Safety first, no matter the sport

Along with giving your body the time, fuel and water it needs to perform at top form, don’t forget basic safety rules or gear needed for your chosen sport.

Heading out on the water for a swim or to get in some time in your kayak? Make sure you’ve done your research first.

“Part of being prepared for water sports is knowing the right techniques,” says Kerrigan. “If you’re new to a water sport, make sure you not only buy the right safety equipment, but also take necessary lessons from someone who is skilled in the sport.”

Before you head out on a long bike ride, double check that your bike is properly sized and adjusted. Make sure your seat, handle bars and pedals are aligned for your size. Always wear a helmet, even on short rides in the neighborhood.

“Take breaks along your ride and rest, especially if you’re just beginning or returning to distance biking,” says Kerrigan.

When heading out for a hike or run, pay attention to your footwear. Supportive shoes will protect your feet and ankles from injury. Remember to stay hydrated to avoid muscle cramping. If you routinely pound the pavement, vary your workouts so that you can build strength and endurance without overworking your joints and leg muscles.

Be aware of your surroundings, especially when hiking. Kerrigan says you should avoid hiking terrain you haven’t scoped out in advance because hidden hazards could lead to serious injuries.

Don’t forget to check the weather for incoming storms, high winds or extreme temperatures. Always go at your own pace, particularly if you are working out with a group. Pushing too hard to keep up can put you at an increased risk for injury.

Listen to your body

The best advice you can take when it comes to physical activity is to listen to your body. While many athletes like to push to see just how fast or far or hard they can train, knowing when to pull back is important.

By easing into activity, you’ll help your body adjust over time, avoiding overuse injuries. These kinds of injuries can be subtle and occur over time, which can make them hard to diagnose and treat, especially when an athlete tries to “tough it out.”

Kerrigan says these are some signs to watch for if you’re worried you’ve pushed yourself too long or too hard:

  • Favoring one side of the body (like limping), especially when changing direction or speed
  • Stiffness in your joint or muscle
  • Pain in your shoulder, shin, hip or knee are common signs of overuse injury

Kerrigan also advises athletes at all levels to cross-train. Varying your workouts so that you aren’t doing the same thing every day strengthens multiple muscle groups and can help you avoid overuse injuries.

If you do get injured, make sure you take time to let your body heal. Getting back to exercise too quickly can cause further, more serious injuries. Work with your doctor or a licensed trainer to develop the best plan for returning to the sports you love.

Print our Safe Exercise guide for more tips on getting back into summer sports without risking injury.

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