Summertime is the ideal time for outdoor activities like boating, swimming, barbecues and picnicking. It’s also ripe for sports injuries, says Nancy White, M.D., a Henry Ford Health sports medicine physician.
“We encourage people of all ages to get outside and take advantage of all the activities available during the summer. It’s very important, though, that people keep safety top of mind to reduce their risk of injury,” Dr. White says.
Dr. White counts these as the five most common injuries:
- Sprains and strains
- Trampoline injuries
- Bike injuries
- Overuse injuries
“Trampoline injuries are mostly caused by jumping, either by an awkward landing or colliding with someone,” Dr. White says. “Overuse injuries happen when someone overextends themselves in a particular activity, whether it’s attending multiple sports camps or simply exercising outdoors.”
Dr. White recommends these three tips for reducing your risk of injury:
- Stay hydrated. Replenish your fluid intake with frequent water breaks.
- Perform warm-up exercises before your run or your game.
- Wear protective gear. Whether bike riding, rollerblading or skateboarding, a helmet and protective pads are a must. Obey traffic laws and store your phone away.
For soft-tissue injuries strains and sprains, Dr. White says the R.I.C.E. method is an immediate at-home treatment you can apply to reduce swelling and pain. It stands for Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation. Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medicine, such as ibuprofen (like Advil) or acetaminophen (like Tylenol), can help too.
If the pain worsens to the point that it interferes with your usual activities or sleep, make an appointment with your doctor or a sports medicine doctor.
Seek medical attention immediately if your pain was caused by a particularly forceful impact, you suspect a broken bone, or if the injury is accompanied by:
- Significant swelling
- Tenderness and warmth around the joint
- Significant pain
For injuries that don’t improve and require medical attention, visit henryford.com/sports and request an appointment with a Henry Ford sports medicine doctor.
Dr. Nancy White is a sports medicine doctor seeing patients at Henry Ford Medical Center-Columbus in Novi and at the William Clay Ford Center for Athletic Medicine in midtown Detroit.
When you've been hit with an injury, it's natural to want to get back to your regular activities as soon as possible. In fact, it's not uncommon for athletes to sidestep doctors' orders and return to the field or the court before an injury has healed.
"It doesn’t matter how much you train, or how much you prepare, injuries are going to happen, especially if you're an athlete," says Jamie Schwab, an athletic trainer at Henry Ford Health System. "But the real trouble arises when athletes try to play through their pain without allowing sufficient time for recovery."
Risks Of Returning Too Soon After Injury
If you sprain your ankle during a cross country run, it can be tempting to finish the race. Unfortunately, hiding your pain and powering through the activity can actually make matters worse.
"If you continue to work out after suffering from an injury, you run the risk of furthering that injury," Schwab says. So what began as a minor ankle sprain can evolve into a major sprain that sidelines you for weeks.
Returning to play after surgery demands extra precautions. "Athletes are a lot more susceptible to re-injury after returning from surgery, especially if they don't complete the entire 9-month or year-long rehabilitation protocol," Schwab says. In some cases, you can exacerbate an injury to such a degree that you'll never be able to participate in the same capacity.
A Safe Return To Play
The road back to play after an injury is a long and winding one. Before you can even consider returning to exercise, you need to reduce swelling, get pain under control and get your range of motion back to almost normal.
"The recovery process takes time," Schwab says. "But if you stick with it, and you take it seriously, it's going to be a whole lot easier for you to return to the playing field in a timely manner."
Once you get pain and swelling under control, you can focus on agility and weight exercises that will help you regain strength and slowly return to baseline. The key tenets for a safer return to play:
► Be honest about your abilities: "So many athletes are afraid to tell the truth," Schwab says. "But if you're hurting and you're not competing at your full potential, you're letting your team down and yourself down, too." Even worse, you could increase your risk of further injury.
► Focus on building strength: Strength training is critical. It can help you become faster, stronger and more agile on the field. It can also help you recover more quickly after an injury.
► Listen to your body: If something doesn't feel right, pay attention to it. Talk to your athletic trainer or a physical therapist to get to the bottom of what's bugging you and put a plan in place to address it.
Boosting Performance Over The Long Haul
Unfortunately, not every coach and athletic trainer stresses the importance of a maintenance program. In fact, focused training and maintenance exercises are key to preventing injuries in the first place.
"The rehabilitation exercises you begin doing on day one after injury need to be maintained at least three to four times each week, indefinitely," Schwab says. "If you follow that regimen, all of your muscular nagging strains will no longer be a problem because your body is constantly adapting to the stresses. It's conditioned, it's strong, it can withstand the constant changes in direction."
Most importantly, don't be afraid to try complementary strategies. Practice using a foam roller, try cupping to release tension in the muscles and enhance blood flow and consider getting a monthly massage.
Jamie Schwab, AT, ATC, SCAT, CSCS, is an athletic trainer with Henry Ford Sports Medicine and works with student athletes at Edsel Ford High School. She is a National Strength and Conditioning Association-certified strength and conditioning specialist.
To find a sports medicine doctor or athletic trainer at Henry Ford, visit henryford.com/sports.