Playing sports and exercising regularly are good for you, but these activities can put you at risk for injury. Our orthopedic sports medicine experts at Lehigh Valley Health Network and Coordinated Health want to help you stay in the game. Here are their top tips for preventing sports injuries:
- Warm up and stretch every time you work out. You can walk, jog, cycle or perform aerobic exercise for three to five minutes to warm up cold muscles. Follow up with some gentle stretches. Try this upper body stretch:
- Stand a little farther than arm’s length distance from a wall with your feet hip width apart.
- Lean forward and place your hands on the wall at shoulder height and shoulder distance apart.
- “Walk” your hands higher on the wall until they’re above your head. You should feel a stretch in your upper body.
- Breathe normally as you hold the position for 10 to 30 seconds.
- Learn proper form. If you’re starting a new sport or exercise routine, take the time to work with a coach or trainer. Here are some basics to remember:
- During squats and lunges, don’t bend your knees past 90 degrees.
- When squatting, stand with your feet a little wider than shoulder-width apart and keep your back straight.
- When performing a deadlift, hinge forward from the hips while keeping your back straight and your chest lifted.
- Don’t jerk weights. Use steady movements instead.
- Be consistent. Weekend warriors — those who exercise for hours on the weekend but do nothing during the week — face an increased risk for injury. Try to get some exercise every day instead.
- Don’t do too much too soon. For safe progress, add to the length and intensity of your workout by 10 percent or less a week.
- Wear proper protective gear. This includes a helmet when you’re biking, skiing, snowboarding or inline skating, and protective eyewear for high-risk sports such as baseball and hockey.
- Cross-train. Playing several sports or doing different workouts helps prevent overuse injuries, boredom and overtraining.
- Cool down after your workout. After you finish exercising, walk or continue your activity at a slower pace to allow your heart rate to slowly return to a normal resting rate.
Think you might have a sports injury? Visit LVHN.org/sportsmedicine and take our free online assessment to help determine what your next steps might be.