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Sports-Related Injuries: How to Prevent and When to See A Doctor

Sports medicine doctors

Most of us, as kids, participated in some sort of sport at some level, and that doesn’t have to stop when you’re an adult. Both recreational and competitive sports can be an ideal way to socialize, maintain fitness, and just have a good time. But with age, the activity can increase the chance of getting injured. So how do we prevent injuries, and what do we do when they occur?

Sports Injury Prevention

While any sporting activity can result in an injury, certain sports are more likely to cause specific types of injuries. The two main categories to describe sports injuries are acute trauma or chronic overuse. Injuries such as this can include anything from tendon injuries, ligament and meniscus tears, to cartilage injuries or muscle strains.

Many of these types of injuries are painful and will result in missing games or practices, as well as hamper daily activities in order to give proper time for your body to rest and recover. Of course, a prior injury can be the most significant predictor of a future injury, so more than just treatment, prevention is important. Some tips to prevent injury are:

Practice good nutrition and hydration – By keeping hydrated it enables your entire body to function and prevent injury.

Maintain strong cardiovascular fitness – Keeping your heart at its peak, the optimal condition will make you better able to handle the rigors of the sport you’re playing.

Have an athletic screening – Be sure to consult with your physician with regard to any prior sports injuries during your next checkup, or before the next season starts. There are corrective exercises that your doctor can recommend to help you be more resistant to a future injury.

Consider the environment and field conditions – This is not just looking at the weather, as while that is an important factor, pay attention to how safely teammates and opponents are playing. Be sure to check the field or court to make sure it’s not in a condition that could cause an injury. Wet spots or ice can set the stage for a mishap.

Use appropriate protective equipment – From helmets and padding to mouth and shin guards, most sports utilize various forms of protective gear. Be certain to learn their use and take advantage of them.

Develop the skills needed – Learning the proper biomechanics for the sport you’re playing is important to keep from being injured during play. Baseball players without the proper mechanics will be more susceptible to injury, just like a soccer player without neuromuscular control will be more likely to be hurt, or a golfer without the right swing mechanics can develop back issues. Learning the right movement for each sport is essential to stay injury-free. You can also do some golf workouts to not only help you improve your game but also prevent such injury.

Pay attention to sportsmanship, or lack thereof – Playing by the rules is essential to keep a game safe, and aggressive play or failure to follow the rules can result in more injuries. Pay attention to be sure officials and members of the teams demonstrate a solid understanding of the fair play.

Warm-up, and cool down – Be sure to always include a warmup, along with a cool down and recovery for each activity. Completing a dynamic warm-up before exercising and then don’t forget to cool down afterward. A proper cool-down period ensures muscles and tendons become resilient and recover from their work properly.

Recognize when you’re injured – Despite how much you try, injuries can happen. When they do, the most important thing is to address the injury. If it’s in a game situation, remove yourself from the game, or if working out, stop right away. Has the injury assessed so it doesn’t get worse?

Manage the healing – When an injury happens, be sure to appropriately manage the process of healing up. Before heading back out on the field, be sure to allow time to completely heal. Consult your doctor to assess why the injury happened to develop a strategy to keep the injury from recurring.

Taking these steps to prevent injuries and avoid causing permanent damage, the stage can be set for a life-long, healthy love of sports.

Seeking Medical Help

Both surgeons and non-surgeons can practice sports medicine, and should you need a surgical evaluation, be sure to look for a board-certified surgeon in orthopedic sports medicine. Sports doctors aren’t just for professional athletes, and anyone that spends their weekends playing sports or just exercises on a regular basis can get a sports injury.

There are a number of reasons to seek out care from a specialist.

You suffer an acute sports injury – Acute injuries happen suddenly while you’re exercising or playing a sport. Most often, these are sprains or strains, but some more serious can occur with muscle or knee injuries, dislocated joints, or even broken bones. Symptoms resulting from an acute injury are sudden pain, swelling, weakness, loss of movement or a bone looking out of place.

You’re suffering from a chronic sports injury – Chronic injuries occur over a period of time and often are a result of training too hard or too long, or from a bad habit that has developed during playing or exercising. A common example of a chronic injury would be to a baseball pitcher developing rotator cuff damage. Other examples would be tendinitis, which is a swelling of the tendons, or stress fractures, which are cracks in bones.

Symptoms of chronic injuries include pain while playing or exercising, swelling that becomes worse when activity stops, or pain or ache that continues while resting.

You require orthopedic surgery – It may be necessary to consult an orthopedic surgeon if you’ve broken a bone, or dislocated a joint. Surgery may be a treatment to repair a torn tendon or ligament, a rotator cuff injury, or a broken bone.

You’re recovering from a sports injury – A sports medicine doctor can help you to recover from a sports injury or surgery, and help you to return to your usual activities. Recovery should begin as soon as physically possible, which will prevent stiffness and muscle weakness. But, be sure not to return to your sport or to exercising too quickly after an injury, as it could result in another injury, or recurring the same injury.

A sports medicine doctor will be able to use their experience to set up a  recovery schedule that will outline activities that will facilitate your recovery. Steps may include medications to reduce swelling and pain or splints and supports to stabilize the injured area. Other treatments may be suggested to promote healing, such as massage therapy, heat and cold therapies, or even electric or sound wave stimulation. Various exercises may be prescribed as well, from range-of-motion exercises to stretching and strengthening exercises.

So, whether you’re into sports for fitness or for competition, you don’t want to be sidelined with an injury. Forced inactivity or time away from a game you love is something we’d all want to avoid. There isn’t any way possible to prevent every injury, but according to research by the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, injury rates could be reduced by 25% if athletes take the proper preventative action to stay healthy.

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