Whether you’re a weekend warrior or a competitive athlete, being sidelined from your favorite sport can be devastating. Many of the most common sports injuries can be avoided with some smart training and preparation. Don’t lose time on the field, track, or court — while accidents sometimes happen, you can do a lot to prevent an injury from occurring.
An estimated one million people in the United States sprain an ankle every year. An ankle sprain can be mild, taking you out of play for just a few weeks, or severe, keeping you sidelined for months.
An ankle sprain occurs when the ligaments in the joint tear or overstretch. Ligaments hold your bones together and provide stability, but when you roll your ankle, land funny, or twist abnormally, these ligaments can be damaged. The sports that often cause a sprain include basketball, soccer, and volleyball.
Stress on your shinbone and its connective tissue can lead to painful inflammation; you’ll feel a throbbing, aching, or burning in the front of your lower leg. Shin splints are common after running farther or faster than you’re accustomed to.
Weak ankles, hips, and core muscles can also contribute to the development of shin splints. Wearing shoes that offer improper or inadequate support may aggravate the condition.
The knee is a complex joint, so a lot can go wrong. Common injuries include an ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) tear, which can occur when you pivot suddenly or land hard. Other ligaments of the knee are also subject to tearing or inflammation.
Other knee conditions commonly experienced by athletes include meniscus tears and patellofemoral syndrome, which results from the repetitive movement of your kneecap against your thigh bone. If you have pain, swelling, or loss of function in your knee, meet with Dr. Abeles for a clear diagnosis.
Tendons connect muscle to bone. When they become inflamed from overuse or, less frequently, from trauma, you may develop tendonitis, a painful condition that causes soreness and irritation around a joint.
Repetitive movements, such as swinging a bat or racquet or frequent jumping, can contribute to inflammation and tendonitis in your joints. Tendonitis often afflicts the elbows of tennis players and golfers, the shoulders of swimmers and pitchers, and the knees of runners and basketball players.
There are several steps you can take to prevent an injury from happening in the first place:
Always warm up before the more strenuous parts of practice or a game. This improves muscle pliability and function, enhances reaction time, and promotes circulation, making an injury less likely.
Wear the right gear for your sport — whether that’s a helmet, mouthguard, or chest plate. Choose shoes appropriate for your type of play and your gait to help prevent ankle sprains, foot pain, and shin splints.
Give yourself at least one day off each week to allow your body to recuperate from heavy training and play. Never play through pain.
Strengthen the muscle groups used in your sport with weight training and other functional work. And don’t forget to stretch to keep from becoming overly tight and imbalanced.
While prevention is key, you can’t always avoid injury. If you do experience pain in a joint, come see Dr. Douglas Abeles for diagnosis and treatment so you can get back in the game as soon as possible.