Pre-conditioning key to avoiding summer injuries
The weather is breaking in the Chicagoland area and across the country, which means more athletes are heading back outdoors to play sports. The rush to the field increases the risks of injuries.
More than seven million students participate in high school sports annually, according to the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS), which means lots of practice over the summer. High school athletes accounted for an estimated two million injuries, 500,000 doctor visits and 30,000 hospitalizations, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finds. Football had the highest injury rate, followed by wrestling and soccer.
According to Dr. Nirav A. Shah, an orthopedic surgeon specializing in sports medicine at Advocate Christ Medical Center’s Bone and Joint Institute in Oak Lawn, Illinois, parents, coaches and trainers can institute some preventative care measures to minimize the risk of sports injuries for not only their young athletes but for the weekend warriors as well.
“While bruises, broken bones, cartilage and ligament injuries are fairly common risks in any sport activity, especially in contact sports, many avoidable overuse injuries are directly related to poor pre-conditioning; overuse of muscles, joints and tendons,” Dr. Shah says.
Entering the sports season unprepared is asking for trouble, Dr. Shah emphasizes.
“Working out, maintaining proper strength and conditioning regularly in the off season is essential if any athlete is to reduce risk of injury,” Dr. Shah says. “In fact, elite and professional athletes minimize injury during their sport season by undertaking appropriate and supervised off-season conditioning and cross-training.”
Dr. Shah has been a consulting physician and assistant team surgeon for the Houston Astros professional baseball team, the National Football League’s Houston Texans and the University of Houston. Dr. Shah is a team physician for many of the south suburban high schools and colleges, and sees many athletes that could have minimized their risk of injury with improvement in education on conditioning and proper techniques.
“As the weather improves, we see not only students, but also adults in their 20s to 50s join club sports and league sports where they put multiple joints at risk, because of a more sedentary lifestyle during the winter months,” Dr. Shah says.
He also emphasizes that while athletic activity is great for physical health and mental well-being, an injury can deter future participation. For these reasons he recommends a period of conditioning prior jumping into sports.
“We see the obvious sprains, strains and fractures, but some student athletes present to the office with overuse injuries,” Dr. Shah says.
He recommends that students as well as weekend warriors mix things up.
“It’s beneficial for athletes of all levels and ages to play different sports instead of playing one sport 10 months out of the year,” he says. “The variety can prevent overuse injuries.”
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