Play It Safe

Don’t let sports injuries put you out of the game this season.

You didn’t see it coming, but when you heard the crack or felt the snap, you just knew something wasn’t right. The pain, swelling, and bruising confirm your fears: it’s a sports injury. Whether the injury puts you out of the next practice, the next game, or the entire season, it’s never fun.

Maybe you’ve joined a tennis league or perhaps your kids are on the soccer team this year. While every sport has its own risks for injury and the more contact a sport has the higher the risk of injury, the majority of sports injuries are caused by overuse. It’s estimated that one out of four injuries on the field or court could be prevented by taking the right measures. What are these steps to prevention? Get the answer below!

Step 1: Get Rest

Since a high percentage of injuries are caused by overuse, it makes sense that your body needs time to rest. Many athletes mistakenly believe that the more they train, the better they’ll perform. But rest is an essential part of training. At least one day a week, plan to avoid all strenuous activity to give your muscles and connective tissues time to recover. Doing so will lead to fitness gains in the long run. (Note: Beware of year-round competitive sports for kids. Since their muscles and bones are still developing they’re especially susceptible to overuse injuries that can plague them their entire lives.)

Step 2: Increase Gradually

Hoping to make the team? Don’t wait for the season to start, but begin practicing now. Waiting to get in shape until the coach drills you is a bad idea. Plan to gradually increase the length and intensity of your workouts over time so your body can adjust. During the off-season months, do conditioning workouts designed for your particular sport to increase strength, flexibility, and coordination, but also perform cross-training exercises to avoid overuse injury.

Step 3: Wear Proper Gear

There’s a reason football players wear helmets and soccer players wear shin guards. You’re not invincible, so play it safe and don’t go on the field or court without wearing appropriate, properly fitting safety gear for your sport.

Step 4: Warm Up

Muscles are more likely to sustain injury when they haven’t had time to warm up. Before any kind of exercise, going through a 10- or 15-minute warm-up will gradually increase your body temperature and get blood pumping to your muscles, ultimately protecting against sports injuries.

Step 5: Use Correct Form

No matter what sport you’re playing, there’s a right way and wrong way to play it. Doing things the wrong way often leads to injury. This is why it’s important to learn and practice good technique and follow the rules of the game. You’ll not only improve performance but you’ll reduce your risk of injury.

Step 6: Hydrate

It’s not just on hot days that your body loses fluid during exercise. To avoid the dangers of dehydration and heat stroke, drink plenty of water and/or sports drinks before, during, and after exercise in any temperature and wear light, breathable clothing. Signs of heat exhaustion include weakness, fatigue, dizziness, muscle cramping, and nausea.

Step 7: Listen to Your Body

Pain is not gain in the world of sports. Rather, it’s a warning sign telling you something is wrong. Mild soreness is expected and can be worked though, but if you’re in pain, stop what you’re doing. Take time to rest and heal before returning to your sport or you can expect more pain and a longer recovery.