Playing Sports Safely
Whether you are a young athlete striving for excellence or a middle-aged adult just having fun, taking the proper approach to playing sports can save you from serious injury. Reconstructive Orthopaedics wants you to be proactive and follow our suggestions to ensure that your days on the playing field are happy ones. We have outlined some safety guidelines for both young and adult athletes to help keep you healthy.
Preventative Care for the Young Athlete
- Young children playing sports need to be reminded to drink water. Hydration is important to maintain in all weather conditions, but especially in extreme cold or hot temperatures. Dehydration leads to heat injuries, fatigue, headache, and muscle injuries.
- Protective gear and equipment that is provided by the sports league should be worn at all times. Mouth guards, helmets and eye protection are especially important to prevent concussions and facial trauma. Well-fitted gear and clothing is very important and can prevent injury.
- Appropriate clothing is important in to keep kids warm in the winter and cool in the summer. Young children cannot regulate body temperature like adults. Cold weather requires wind and water resistant clothing with layers. Hot and sunny weather requires breathable fabrics and coverage for skin protection from the sun. Sunscreen should be used anytime a child is exposed to the sun.
- Eating and drinking healthy food and fluids are critical to maintain energy and the proper hydration. Consuming carbohydrates a few hours before exercising will provide enough calories to support good performance. Water is always the best drink before and during exercise. Protein is critical to replenish the body after the game. Lean meats (beef, chicken and fish) should be combined with vegetables to balance the meal. High sugar “energy” drinks with caffeine are not recommended before or after exercise. They can actually lead to dehydration. Sugar intake needs to be monitored in young athletes as it provides a brief boost of energy, but no nutritional value.
- Rest is a forgotten element in the lives of many of our youth. Seasons that never end or blend directly into the next season do not provide a child time to recover. Sports with multiple games a day or over a weekend can lead to overuse injuries. Any pain or ache that lasts more than 2 days deserves a period of rest to allow healing. If the pain persists after a week of rest, the child should be seen by a physician. Overuse injuries are the most common reason for lost playing time in childrens’ sports. The young athlete should never “play with pain”, since this only leads to more serious injuries.
Complaints of pain in a bone, joint or muscle should be taken seriously. If pain persists more than 48 hours, have the child evaluated by a physician.
Preventative Care for the Adult Athlete
- As we age, ligaments and muscles lose the elasticity that is present as young athletes. It is critical to spend a 5-10 minute period to warm up. The warm- up is meant to get blood flowing to the muscles and raise the heart rate. Next, stretching is performed for 5-10 minutes. Stretching exercises should be slow and gentle. Vigorous stretching can cause muscle tearing. Stretching at the completion of a workout is critical to calm down the muscles and prevent soreness the following day.
- Cardiovascular health is promoted with 30-60 minutes of vigorous exercise 3-4 times a week. The heart rate should elevate at least 1.5 times the resting heart rate. An exercise routine is critical to maintaining body weight, lowering blood sugar and blood pressure. It will also have beneficial effects on energy level and sleep.
- Plenty of water is necessary when exercising. Water should be consumed throughout the day. Six glasses (8 ounces) of water a day is generally recommended. Proper hydration can prevent muscle, heat and fatigue injuries.
- The environment should be considered when engaging in athletic events and training exercises. Wet and slippery surfaces are unpredictable which can lead to injuries due to twisting and falling. You also need to prepare for extreme temperatures to avoid injuries. Never perform strenuous exercise in high heat or extreme cold.
- Diet is very important. Protein and vegetables replenish the body and can help build muscle. Getting enough fiber is important for gastrointestinal health as well. If weight loss in your intent, please consult with a physician, so that you lower your calorie intake safely.
- Always start new exercise or activities slowly. Your bones and muscles need time to become acquainted with the new stress being placed on them. Jumping into a new exercise routine or sport is one of the most common ways you can end up in the office of an orthopedic surgeon.
- When it is recommended that you wear eye protection or a mouth guard for a sport this guideline should be followed without exception. If playing a contact sport such as hockey, all protective gear should be worn and fitted appropriately.