shutterstock_1038983215.jpeg (shutterstock_1038983215.webp)If you are an athlete on an organized sports team, this past season probably looked a little different from what you’ve been used to. After the pandemic called a long timeout from athletic competition, athletes everywhere are excited to get back to the sports they love. But jumping back into former workout routines after long months of spending time off is one of the easiest ways to injure yourself. Although your brain remembers the physical demands of field sprints or swimming relays, it generally takes your body a lot longer to get back up to speed. 

At OAA Orthopedic Specialists, our board-certified, fellowship trained physicians are committed to helping our patients reach their goals while helping them manage their risk of injury. Our latest blog discusses three tips that can help you to avoid injury as you get back to your sport:  

1. Stretching is Key

Did you know that there is a way to enhance athletic performance, decrease back pain, and prevent injury? It all comes down to stretching. Long periods away from athletic activity can cause the muscles in your body to tighten. Before running back onto the field or the court, make sure you loosen and warm up your muscles by stretching. This small activity can have major benefits, such as preventing muscle strain and joint pain. Here are two types of stretches that will keep your body healthy and ready for your next workout:

  • Static stretching: Begin your stretching routine with static stretches. These are stretches that include holding a pose in place, such as butterfly stretch, overhead triceps stretch, cobra pose, or head-to-knee forward stretch.
  • Dynamic stretching: After static stretching, you can move to dynamic stretches. Dynamic stretching includes actively moving your joints and muscles with sport-specific movements that target specific muscle groups. These can include lunges, side steps, or hip circles. 

2. Gradually Increase Your Workout Intensity 

Quarantine movie marathons aren’t quite the same as training for athletic competition. With the restrictions put in place during the pandemic, there is a high chance that you haven’t been able to expose your body to the physical demands of your normal exercise routines. This means your body is at a higher risk of injury once you return to a structured workout regimen. Here are some ways you can listen to your body while easing back into physical activity: 

  • Decrease your workout time- If you are extremely deconditioned, aim for multiple workout sessions of short durations (around 10 minutes) throughout the day. After you have given your body adequate time to acclimate, you can work your way up to 20-60 minutes of continuous aerobic activity for three to five days per week. 
  • Start with light exercises- Light running, cycling, walking, and swimming are all great aerobic exercises that target large muscle groups with low impact on your body.
  • Set goals- Start setting goals for each week that can help to keep you motivated as you slowly increase the intensity of your workouts. 

3. Build Hip Mobility 

While focusing on building muscle and engaging in cardio-focused exercises are helpful toward getting yourself back in athletic shape, hip conditioning is an important part of returning to the field, the court, the track or the pool. The muscles around your hip are crucial for well-balanced and controlled movements in your hip and knee joints, and adequate hip extension provides us with the mobility to run and jump. Strengthening these hip muscles are also key to injury prevention and can help to prevent knee injuries such as ACL tears. Here are a few hip flexor exercises that can keep this vital area of your body strong: 

  • Seated butterfly stretch 
  • Hip bridges
  • Lunges 
  • Floor-sliding mountain climbers
  • Skater squats 

To learn more about performing these stretches at home, check out this link for instructions!
If you’re in the process of getting back into the routine of your sport, our board-certified sports medicine specialists at OAA are here to help you reach your goals. We understand that while athletic activity is key to our overall health, it can be trying on our bodies especially after long periods of rest.

If you have sustained a sports-related injury, schedule your appointment with OAA today or call (610) 973-6200 for more information.