Each year, athletes throughout America suffer a collective 8.6 million sports injuries. These injuries range from easy-to-treat sprains and strains to career-ending concussions and broken bones.
On the one hand, being an athlete involves the inherent risk of getting hurt. On another, there are ways athletes can take proactive measures to protect themselves in the course of their sport and to ensure that they’re not undergoing more sports injuries than they need.
Here are a few of our top recommendations for avoiding injuries during intense play.
4 Smart Tips for Athletes Who Want to Avoid Injury
Regardless of whether the sport in question is soccer or pickleball, these injury-avoidance tips work to help keep bodies healthy and injuries at bay:
1. Stretch First
It’s far too easy to get injured as an athlete if you don’t take the time to warm up before you start your session of play. Today, upwards of 30% of injuries in sports medicine clinics take place in the skeletal muscles. When you warm up and stretch before you hit the field, you do a few essential things:
- You improve the flexibility and range of motion in your muscles, reducing the risk of strain and making them less susceptible to injury
- You prepare your body’s other systems for the stress and impact of activity, reducing shock and stress hormones
If you’re not accustomed to warming up before you start a game, build it in slowly. Spend ten minutes stretching your major muscle groups, for example, or go for a slow walk/jog before you start playing. For maximum effectiveness, be sure to start your warm-up at least 15 minutes before you begin your exercise.
Be sure, also, to include a variety of dynamic and static stretches. Static stretches are fixed positions you hold for a long period, while dynamic stretches are stretches you do while moving.
2. Fuel Early, Fuel Often
To operate at maximum efficiency, your body needs ample fuel and water. If you’re allowing yourself to become dehydrated or suffer from low blood sugar during a big game, you’re not doing your body any favors. Even a simple thing like dehydration can make your muscles more prone to sprains and strains, for example, and contribute to exhaustion that will lead to sloppy form and dangerous habits.
Instead, keep your electrolytes high during high-impact activity. Drinking a sports drink or adding an electrolyte tab to your bottle of water is a great option. You should also fuel up on carbohydrates and proteins as you play. To-go packets of almond butter are a great example of a nutrient-dense, easy-to-eat snack. As you experiment with nutrition, find a few go-to snacks that you can toss easily into your pack. Keep these with you as you work out.
3. Evaluate Suspicious Pains
Came down on your ankle wrong during the last game? Don’t ignorer thee twinge that flares up when you run. Instead, get yourself to a PT or sports therapist and have it evaluated. A chiropractor is also an excellent resource for assessing sudden pains or injuries, and for helping you take steps to avoid making them worse.
Many sports injuries arise from something that could have been inconsequential, if only it were treated early. Not all pains are severe injuries. In some cases, they need rest and a few days off. If you push these little tweaks, though, you put yourself at risk of making a mountain out of a molehill.
With this in mind, recognize injury when it happens. You can’t demand a huge amount from your body unless you’re willing to maintain it, in return. When you take care of your body, it will take care of you.
4. Be Dedicated to Rest Days
Every hardworking body needs rest. If you’re trying to meet fitness goals or incorporate more activity into your routine, it can be challenging to slow down. Instead of seeing a rest day as an inconvenience, though, start viewing it as a necessity. When it comes to athletic injuries, overuse injuries are some of the most common.
According to StopSportsInjuries.org,
“Training errors are the most common cause of overuse injuries. These errors involve rapid acceleration of the intensity, duration, or frequency of activity. Overuse injuries also happen in people who are returning to a sport or activity after injury and try to make up for lost time by pushing themselves to achieve the level of participation they were at before injury. Proper technique is critical in avoiding overuse injuries, as slight changes in form may be the culprit. For this reason, coaches, athletic trainers, and teachers can play a role in preventing recurrent overuse injuries.”
To avoid this, you need to avoid overtraining. When you overtrain, you not only damage your performance, but you put excessive strain on your body systems, causing muscle and tendon damage and decreasing the energy stored in your muscles. This fatigue puts you in a prime position for injuries. To avoid this, incorporate rest days into your routine.
Take Care of Your Body and It Will Take Care of You
Being involved in active esports is an excellent pastime as far as your fitness and cardiovascular health are concerned. When it comes to your skeletal and soft tissue system, however, active sports do present a significant risk. That’s no reason to stop playing, though. If you’re concerned about injury, it’s wise to take a few preventative steps to avoid sports injuries and keep your body healthy.
By incorporating rest days into your routine, fueling your body with plenty of water and nutrition, paying attention to pain signals your body is sending you, and starting a warm-up and stretching routine, you can make your everyday play safer, healthier, and more fulfilling.
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