As the temperatures start to cool off and the leaves begin to change color, it can only mean one thing: fall sports are back in full swing! For football players, soccer players, and other athletes competing in fall sports, it's an exciting time of year -- but it's important to remember that the risk of sports-related injury is always present.
That said, there are steps that can be taken to help prevent sports injuries from happening in the first place. Common sports injuries like concussions, ACL tears, and ankle sprains can often be avoided if athletes take the proper precautions.
At OAA Orthopaedic Specialists, our team of board-certified, fellowship-trained sports medicine specialists are experts in diagnosing and treating sports injuries. We're also dedicated to guiding athletes in preventing sports injuries in the first place so they can stay healthy and injury-free all season long.
Need guidance? Struggling with symptoms of a sports injury? OAA can help. Schedule your first appointment with our team of experts today.
The sports medicine team at OAA has put together some sports injury prevention tips to help keep you safe on the playing field this season:
Warm Up Before You Play
You may have heard before that 'warm muscles' work better than 'cold muscles.' But what does this really mean?
Warming up before participating in any physical activity helps prepare your body for the demands of exercise. When you warm up, your heart rate and breathing increase, delivering more oxygen to your muscles. This process also helps improve your range of motion, making it less likely that you'll pull a muscle during gameplay.
A good warm-up should last for at least 10-15 minutes and include dynamic exercises, like jumping jacks or jogging in place, followed by static stretches, like touching your toes or lunging forward.
Don't Forget Stretching Exercises
Speaking of static stretches, regular stretching is one of the most important things you can do to prevent sports injuries. Stretching helps increase your flexibility, which in turn can help improve your performance and decrease your risk of injury.
Be sure to stretch all of the major muscle groups in your body, including your hamstrings, quadriceps, calves, hips, back, and shoulders. Hold each stretch for at least 30 seconds and repeat 2-3 times.
Use Proper Equipment
Another important way to prevent sports injuries is to wear the proper protective equipment during gameplay. This means wearing shoes that fit well and provide adequate support, as well as the necessary protective gear for your particular sport. These can include:
- Face guards
- Mouth guards
- Protective cups
While players of every age should be wearing proper gear, this is a particularly important step for young athletes to remember. Children's bodies are still growing and developing, so a serious (and preventable) sports injury can have a much more profound effect on their health in the long run.
Don't Skip Leg Day or Arm Day
Working out isn't just for athletes -- it's important for everyone! To help reduce your risk of sports injuries, aim to get at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise most days of the week. This can include activities like walking, biking, swimming, or playing tennis.
In addition to cardio exercises, don't forget to add strength training and conditioning to your workout routine. Strong muscles in both your upper body and lower body can help support joints and can prevent injuries like ACL tears, while good conditioning helps improve your overall stamina and endurance.
Don't Neglect Previous Injuries
If you've sustained a previous injury, the likelihood that you'll experience another injury or a more serious injury in the same area is increased. Be sure to take the necessary precautions to prevent re-injury, which may include:
- Wearing proper protective gear
- Doing strength and flexibility exercises
It's also important to get checked out by a doctor or sports medicine specialist if you experience any pain, swelling, or other symptoms in the area of a previous injury. These could be signs that the injury has not fully healed and may require further treatment. If left untreated, a previous injury can increase your risk of sustaining more injuries even further.
Use Proper Technique
It's important to use proper technique when participating in any physical activity. This means using the right form and following any safety rules that are in place. For example, if you're playing football, be sure to properly tackle an opponent using your shoulder, not your head. Ignoring these rules doesn't just put you at an increased risk for injury: it increases the risk for other players around you as well.
Young athletes: If you're unsure if you have the proper training needed to safely participate in a particular sport, talk to your coach or another trusted adult. They can help you get the guidance you need to prevent injuries before they happen.
Listen to Your Body
Last but not least, it's important to listen to your body and pay attention to any pain or discomfort you may be feeling. This is especially true if you're participating in a new activity or trying to push yourself to a new level of performance.
Overuse injuries are among the most common types of sports injuries, and include:
- Stress fractures
- Shin splints
- And more.
Remember, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure! If something doesn't feel right, stop what you're doing and rest. Continuing to play through the pain can lead to further injury and may make any existing injuries worse. If the pain persists, be sure to see a sports injury doctor for an evaluation as soon as possible.
You Deserve the Best Sports Medicine Near You
We hope you have a fun and safe fall season! But if you do find yourself dealing with an injury, the team at OAA is here to help. We offer comprehensive sports medicine services, from diagnosis and treatment to rehabilitation and beyond.
To learn more about our sports medicine services or to get started with us, schedule your first appointment online today.