Sunny weather and warming temperatures draw outdoor enthusiasts from their couches to nearby trails and bike routes. Unfortunately, spring and early summer recreation can all-too-often come to a quick end with an injury.
“We see a large volume of patients during the spring with injuries that could have been prevented,” says Roger Petersen, Director of Physical Therapy at The Orthopedic Specialty Hospital (TOSH) in Murray. “Following a few simple training guidelines—and starting slowly—can mean the difference between a summer of fun, or the long road of rehabilitation.”
Sports scientists at TOSH suggest that injury rates can be reduced by 25% if athletes take appropriate preventive action. According to Jim Walker, Ph.D., Director of Sport Science at TOSH, two common mistakes lead to most springtime injuries: Starting too fast and not training properly.
Many athletes like to start out in the spring at the same level they ended with in the fall. “This is a mistake,” says Dr. Walker, “If you haven’t kept a regular exercise program during the winter, it’s going to be a few months before you’re able to perform at the levels you’re used to.”
And you shouldn’t use weekend recreation as training; train during the week so you can go all out on the weekend. Training plays a key role in determining your real injury risk. Fatigued muscles do a poor job of protecting their associated connective tissues, increasing the risk of damage to bone, cartilage, tendons and ligaments. If you feel tired, or have sore muscles, hitting it hard isn’t going to help you.
“A sport-specific training program will strengthen muscles,” says Dr. Walker, “especially if the exercise involves movements similar to those associated with your sport.”
- Allow plenty of time for warm ups and cool downs.
- Match increases in training with increases in resting.
- Increase carbohydrate consumption during heavy training.
- Treat minor injuries carefully to prevent them from becoming big problems.
- Never train hard if you’re stiff from the previous day.
- Pay attention to hydration and nutrition.
- Wear good-fitting, supportive shoes.
- Introduce new activities gradually.