Preventing Sports Injuries: It’s All in the Warm-Up

Professional football kicks off next week, and many amateur athletes are also heading back to the playing field. As Florida’s weather finally cools, sports enthusiasts dust off their equipment and get back to their favorite games. That’s why every autumn, ER staff and doctors notice an increase in sports injuries among people of all ages. But sports injuries aren’t an inevitable occurrence; with the proper preparation, athletes of any age can prevent sports injuries.

Repetitive Use is the Culprit

When we think of sports injuries, most of us probably think of full-contact sports like football and hockey. Although these sports do exact a higher toll on participants’ bodies, they aren’t the cause of most sports injuries. SPGH Director of Rehabilitation JC Devitt says, “The majority of injuries occur due to repetitive use. Tennis, running, and other activities that place stress on the joints are frequent culprits for sports injuries.”

Meanwhile as we age, our bodies are less equipped to respond to sudden changes in physical condition, such as rapid movement or unexpected stress on the body. That means even moderate activity can cause harm—and that older adults are more prone to injuries like sprains and strains. Rotator cuff injuries from overhead throwing are also fairly common among older athletes. Some sports also contribute to wear and tear on the joints themselves, leading to osteoarthritis. Patients who fail to protect their joints properly may eventually need joint replacement surgery.

Preventing Sports Injuries

The most important step that patients can take to prevent sports injuries is to warm up properly before every work-out. “Patients tend to skip this step because it takes time, and because often people are participating in sports recreationally,” says Devitt. “When you’re only playing on the weekends, your body isn’t as prepared.”

But warm-up is always important. “A warm up is really a five- to ten-minute cardiovascular activity that increase heart rate and prepares the muscles and joints that you’ll be using,” Devitt says. “And as you age, it’s more important to do warm-up and general conditioning exercises.” That’s right: not only should you prepare immediately before any rigorous activity, but you should also keep the body primed throughout the week. Regular strength and flexibility training usually suffice.

For patients who do incur sports injuries, treatments may vary. Some minor injuries can be treated at home with RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation). Others require rehabilitation, and in limited cases, surgery. Patients who need surgery will also undergo inpatient rehabilitationafter their procedure, to ensure that they heal properly. If patients will be returning to sports, therapists also teach proper warm-up and conditioning techniques, to help the patient avoid future injury.

If you have questions about preventing sports injuries, please contact us at St. Petersburg General Hospital. Visit us online or call Consult-a-Nurse®at 727-341-4055 for answers to your questions and free physician referrals.

National Institutes of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases

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