Summer Fun in Recovery

The fall sports season is coming up, especially for young athletes who are heading back to school. With that comes an increased risk for more injuries. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly 30 million children and adolescents participate in some form of organized sport. Of these, about 2.6 million sustain serious injuries each year, with over 1.35 million visits to the emergency room.

Preventing sports injury isn't always possible, but more often than not, common sports injuries are caused by a lack of proper safety gear, overtraining, or incorrect form. As a result, taking some extra precautions can go a long way to prevent injuries and ensure that you or your child doesn't end up on the sidelines.

At Greater Pittsburgh Orthopaedic Associates (GPOA), we want our patients to stay as healthy and active as possible. We're passionate about educating athletes on ways to effectively prevent sports injuries, and about providing the best fall injury treatment possible if a sports-related injury occurs.

Here are 10 sports injury prevention tips from our sports medicine team to help you play safe this fall:

  • 1. Don't Forget to Warm Up and Cool Down

    One of the most important things you can do to prevent sport injuries is to warm up and cool down properly before and after physical activity. Warming up with simple exercises like jumping jacks helps to increase your heart rate and body temperature, making your muscles more flexible and less likely to be injured. Cooling down gives your body a chance to slowly return to its resting state, helping to prevent blood pooling and cramping.

  • 2. Stretch Regularly

    Regular stretching helps to increase range of motion, flexibility, and blood flow to muscles. It's important to stretch all major muscle groups at least 2-3 times per week. Dynamic stretching exercises (active movement within a comfortable range of motion) are best for warming up muscles before activity, while static stretching exercises (holding a stretch for 20-30 seconds) are better for cooling down.

  • 3. Use the Right Protective Equipment

    For football players, hockey players, lacrosse players, and other athletes who play contact sports, wearing the proper protective gear is crucial for preventing injuries. Depending on your sport, this typically includes:

    • Face guards

    • Mouth guards

    • Protective cups

    • Shoulder pads

    • Helmets

    • Knee and elbow pads

  • In addition to wearing the proper gear, it's also important to make sure that it fits correctly. Helmets, for example, should be snug but not too tight, and should sit level on your head. Shoulder pads should cover the entire shoulder while still allowing full range of motion.
  • 4. Stay Hydrated

    It's important for all athletes to stay properly hydrated, especially in hot weather. The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recommends that athletes drink 17-20 ounces of water 2-3 hours before exercise, 7-10 ounces of water every 10-20 minutes during exercise, and 16-24 ounces of water for every pound lost after exercise.

  • 5. Don't Slack on Strength Training

    Having strong muscles helps to support joints and can prevent injuries, particularly in the knees. The American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine (AOSSM) recommends strength training 2-3 times per week for the upper body and lower body, focusing on exercises that target the core, legs, and arms.

  • 6. Avoid Overdoing It

    Some of the most common injuries in sports occur as a result of overtraining. When you push your body too hard, too fast, you're more likely to experience a more serious injury, including overuse injuries such as:

    • Achilles tendinitis

    • Stress fractures

    • Shin splints

    • Plantar fasciitis

  • To avoid these conditions, it's important to gradually increase the intensity and duration of your workouts. If you're just starting a new exercise regimen, aim for 20-30 minutes of moderate activity 3-5 times per week.
  • 7. Use Proper Form

    Using proper form during physical activity is key to preventing sports injuries because it encourages you to place less stress on the muscles and joints. When lifting weights, for example, be sure to use a weight that you can lift comfortably while still maintaining good form. If you're not sure how to do an exercise correctly, ask a certified personal trainer or coach for proper training.

  • 8. Take Care of Your Joints

    Joint pain is a common complaint among athletes, particularly as they age. To prevent injuries to the knee, shoulder, ankle, and more, it's important to take care of your joints both before and after exercise. This includes:

    • Wearing supportive shoes that fit properly

    • Using proper form during physical activity

    • Stretching regularly

    • Strengthening the muscles around the joint

  • If you've ever sustained a previous injury to a joint, be sure to take extra care to avoid re-injuring it.

  • 9. Listen to Your Body

    Giving your body adequate time to rest and recover is essential for preventing injuries. When you're training for a big event, it's important to schedule regular rest days into your workout routine. This gives your muscles time to recover from the stress of exercise, allows previous injuries to heal, and helps to prevent overtraining. 

    In addition, it's important to listen to your body and be aware of any pain or discomfort you may be feeling. If you're experiencing pain, stop what you're doing and seek medical attention immediately. For less serious aches and pains, rest the affected area for a few days. If the pain persists, consult a doctor or physical therapist.

  • 10. See a Sports Medicine Doctor

    Seeing a doctor regularly can help to prevent injuries by allowing you to catch any problems early on. If you have any pre-existing medical conditions that could affect your ability to exercise safely, be sure to let your doctor know. 

    It is extremely important to receive medical care for a sports injury as soon as possible instead of fighting to stay in the game. If left untreated, a small injury can quickly turn into a much more serious problem, taking you out for a much longer period of time. A sports medicine doctor can provide you with the proper diagnosis and treatment to help you recover quickly and safely.

GPOA: The Best Sports Orthopedic Medicine Near You

Whether you're a weekend warrior or a professional athlete, following these tips can help you avoid injuries and stay healthy. If you do become injured, be sure to seek out care from a specialized healthcare provider.

At Greater Pittsburgh Orthopaedic Associates, our team of experienced orthopedic surgeons is dedicated to providing comprehensive care for all your orthopedic needs. We offer a full range of services, from sports medicine and joint replacement to spine surgery and trauma care. If you’re an athlete looking for the best sports medicine Pittsburgh has to offer, we're here to help.

If you’re ready to find relief and get back to the life you love, don’t wait! Contact GPOA today to schedule an appointment.