Spring is in the air and you know what that means—a new sports season. And a new sports season often means new injuries—but it doesn’t have to.
This time of year, adults and kids alike often hurl themselves into baseball, softball, track, lacrosse, tennis, golf, or a variety of other spring sports—without any preparation. While the warmer temperatures and beautiful weather is enticing, and the new sports season is starting, your body might not be ready to kick it into high gear.
Any orthopedic doctor will tell you that this is the season for tennis elbow, golfer’s elbow, pitcher’s elbow, knee pain, and shin splints. Before you launch yourself wholeheartedly into your spring sport of choice, take some time to prepare.
- Ease In: Slow and steady wins the race. It’s never a good idea to go from the couch to full throttle. If you spent the winter hibernating, take time to ease into your sport of choice. A sudden switch from sedentary to active is a surefire way to end up injured. If you’re a runner, plan on building your mileage slowly.
- Always Warm Up: It’s tempting to pick up a racquet or a bat and start playing, but you’ll pay the price. Take the time to warm your body up with light exercise for 5 to 10 minutes and then stretch.
- Stretch: Take time to stretch before and after exercise. Different sports are associated with different tight muscles. If you’re running, you may want to pay extra attention to your calves, hamstrings, and iliotibial bands. If you’re golfing, your low back might need some extra attention. It’s okay to focus on these areas, but be sure to stretch the rest of your body, too.
- Practice Targeted Exercises: Sports such as tennis and baseball call for repetitive movements that can strain or tear muscles and tendons. Be proactive by practicing strengthening exercises that target the muscle groups you are using in order to reduce the risk of injury.
- Avoid Exercising Through Pain: As you embark on your new training program, you may encounter minor aches and pains. These are usually nothing to worry about; however, if you have sharp or chronic pain that doesn’t go away, pay attention. This could be the warning sign that you are on your way to an injury. Ease up on the exercise and opt for rest.
- Know When to Call a Doctor: Many athletes put off a visit to the doctor for fear of being told they’ll have to spend some time on the bench. This is never a good idea. Letting an injury go untreated can lead to more serious complications. Be proactive and visit the doctor as soon as you experience an injury. The sooner you take care of it, the sooner you’ll be back in the game.