Summer is the season when many competitive athletes and weekend warriors’ are most physically active. Hospitals get busier as well, seeing an increase in sports-related injuries. Many of these painful problems can be avoided with some basic pre- and post-workout practices that keep athletes ready to play and help them recover after.
“During the summer months we see an influx of patients with injuries associated with increased activity level; too much, too soon, too fast,” says Dr. Phil. “We also see an increase in injuries associated with environmental illnesses like heat illness and dehydration”.
Repetitive Stress Injuries
A traumatic injury occurs at one time, such as when someone sprains an ankle, tears a muscle, injures a knee or breaks a bone. A repetitive-stress injury occurs when an athlete repeats a movement, such as a baseball pitch or a tennis backhand. Over time, a muscle or ligament or tendon begins to wear down.
Athletes should pay attention to nagging soreness in joints and be careful about pain relievers that can hide a serious problem. A visit to a qualified sports medicine physician can help pinpoint an overuse issue that’s causing pain. Treatment often includes adding strength-training exercises that target the specific area. Athletes can then meet with his or her coach and work on improving the throw or swing that’s causing the problem.
The Stretching Myth
Athletes might be surprised to learn that stretching a muscle and holding that stretch before activity not only doesn’t reduce the risk of injury, it actually impairs sports performance and can increase a person’s risk for an injury. Holding a stretch, known as static stretching, desensitizes muscles and decreases vertical leap and power for approximately 15 minutes. It’s OK to do this type of stretching roughly 30 minutes before activity or immediately following, but not right before a jog or volleyball match. Examples of dynamic stretches are: skipping, jumping jacks, quick lunges, arm circles and light jogging. After every workout, practice, game or match, athletes should static stretch to increase flexibility and improve future performance.
Static stretching is helpful after a workout or game. “Cooling down and stretching after activity shows benefits for injury prevention, particularly after consecutive intense workout days in a row,” says Dr. Phil.
RICE Might not be Nice
For decades, athletes have used ice to immediately treat sprains and other injuries. The most common method of treating sports injuries today is the RICE method (rest, ice, compression, elevation). According to current sport researchers (including Dr. Gabe Mirkin, who coined “RICE” and that treatment in 1978), icing is actually the wrong way to go. Inflammation after an injury is a sign the body is working to heal the problem. When athletes ice an injury, they slow the healing process. The same happens when taking anti-inflammatory medications, such as cortisone shots or ibuprofen.
It’s OK to use ice to manage severe pain, but only for 10 minutes, followed by a 20-minute break, followed by another 10 minutes of ice and so on. Athletes should stop icing after six hours and visit a doctor if the pain persists. If pain lasts for more 48 hours, it might be a sign professional medical attention is needed.
During the summer, people participating in hard physical activity should begin all exercise sessions well hydrated, recommends Dr. Smith. “If a person becomes thirsty during activity, he is at least one liter depleted of fluid and this is means he needs to hydrate.” An athlete should pre-hydrate with 17 to 20 ounces of fluid, two to three hours before exercise, and another 7 to 10 ounces of fluid 20 to 30 minutes before exercise, says Dr. Smith. If the activity last less than 45 minutes, water should be adequate for hydration. If the exercise lasts longer than 45 minutes, athletes should consume some post-exercise carbohydrates, either in a sports drink, energy bar, snack or meal.
Beware of Heat Exposure
Many people who get heat prostration don’t realize it and keep playing, eventually ending up in the hospital. On hot days, athletes should check themselves, their partners and teammates for signs of heat stress, such as bright red skin, a lack of sweating and cold, clammy skin. Wear light-colored clothes and hats that wick water away from skin (avoid cotton) and let skin breathe.
Safe Workout and Exercise Tips
Dr. Phil recommends the following tips to build a safe, enjoyable exercise program:
- Build Frequency – How often you perform an activity. Start 2-3 times a week and build from there.
- Increase Duration – How long you do an activity. Start with 20 minutes and build from there.
- Increase Intensity – How difficult your activity is. The recommended rate to increase the intensity of your program is no more than 10% per week.
Shared by Dr. Phil McAllister @ Forward Health