Most people think of sports medicine as just treating sports injuries. That is an important part of what sports medicine physicians do. Doctors with specialized training and experience can recognize the type and severity of an athlete’s injury and advise the appropriate course of treatment required for a full recovery. However, sports medicine means preventing sports injuries, too. The experts will tell you what they have known for years about preventing sports injuries: it’s not just stretching. Here are some tips to help you prevent sports injuries.
Know your ability
An important part of training and playing sports is not to do too much too fast. Yes, you can and should build up your strength, speed, and endurance, but taking on more than you’re ready for is a sure path to injury. Muscles are developed by pushing yourself, but only to a degree. The amount of “pain” needed for “gain” is something you need to figure out without hurting yourself. Then don’t stop training, either. Consistency is key.
Stretching can help, but warming up is key
Stretching has little to do with keeping you from having an injury. Although there are undeniable benefits, it is more important to warm up prior to an activity. It makes sense that if you go from zero to full speed your muscles and tendons are not going to be optimally prepared to support the motions involved in your sport. The increase in blood flow from mild activity levels can prepare you for exertion at the real game time. “Warm” muscles and limber tendons are less likely to be injured!
Learn by practice
Your body works hard to respond to cues from the environment, as well as what you decide, with regard to where and how it will move. Your body learns from experience, and you can actually build on natural coordination. Although much of agility is genetic, it can be improved through practice. That means fewer injuries while playing.
Rest is important
Even professional football players have a “bye” week. Most people underestimate the impact of fatigue on their performance, reaction time, and level of alertness. It almost goes without saying that most of us do not get the sleep we need. But for athletes, sleep can be a great preventative measure when it comes to injury. Rest. Your body (and coach!) will thank you come game day.
Avoid unnecessary exertion
Sometimes you have to go all out and put on that last burst of speed and go after your goal with everything you’ve got when competing. However, keeping that level of intensity for too long is usually not necessary and can lead to rigidity in your muscles (as you literally tense up in anticipation) that makes them more vulnerable to a traumatic injury. Keeping the big picture in mind, use your strength and skill when it counts and stay as relaxed as possible. This will increase your confidence and ability, especially if your opponents are playing full-throttle. It conserves energy, which preserves your ability and reaction time, too.
Know your limits
Being the best in your sport is a building process. Once you have mastered one skill, you build on that skill to learn new ones. You wouldn’t run a marathon if you never completed a 5K race; why would you try to go about and beyond your current level of training and experience to do something you are not prepared to do. That is a recipe for failure – and injury. Learn to build up incrementally by increasing your endurance, strength, and technique. This will not only enhance your future performance but help your body build muscle memory for the next big challenge.
Injuries and accidents can happen to anyone playing sports. If you have a sports injury, a sports medicine specialist with experience in treating musculoskeletal injuries can help you heal as quickly as possible. Learning how to prevent further injury and re-injury is part of their area of expertise.
In the Denver area, athletes trust Star Spine & Sport to provide the best care in the evaluation, treatment, and prevention of sports injuries. For an appointment, call our office at (303) 238-4277 today. We see patients in three convenient locations in Golden, Westminster, and Denver.