Why Spring Sports Injuries Are Common & How To Prevent Them

April 11, 2023

When spring is in the air, athletes of all ages head outdoors to play their favorite sports, including softball, baseball, tennis, lacrosse and track & field.

Henry Ford HealthUnfortunately, the change of season also ushers in injuries, says Joseph Medellin, M.D., a primary care sports medicine doctor at Henry Ford Medical Center-Jackson. A variety of factors can cause spring sports injuries, including:

► Too much or too little winter activity: With shorter days and colder temperatures, some athletes aren’t as active in winter. Even if you are going to the gym regularly, sport-specific muscles ­– like muscles in the chest and shoulder that help you throw a baseball – may weaken.  

At the start of a new sports season, a sudden increase in the demand on these muscles can lead to injury. Taking steps to get ready for spring sports before the season starts can lower this risk. It’s also not uncommon for multi-sport athletes to have games and practices year-round with multiple practices in one day. Not allowing yourself enough downtime can lead to overuse injuries, including strains and sprains.

► Transitioning outdoors: Winter sports often take place on hard surfaces, like wood basketball courts, gyms and treadmills. These surfaces are flat, making it easier to maintain your footing. Spring sports involve soft running surfaces like grass and turf that are uneven. They can also be wet, muddy or icy due to spring weather. All these circumstances increase the risk of injury due to falls.

Cold weather can also be a factor. Early spring temperatures can still be quite cold. It takes longer for muscles to warm up, and they might not work as efficiently. This can be especially troublesome with sports like softball where there are lulls in activity between innings. Playing with cold muscles can increase the risk of sprains and strains.

► Sport-specific movements: Throwing, sprinting and kicking are moves that most people don’t do on a daily basis. They require powerful motions that can stress unconditioned muscles and joints. This is especially true if you haven’t been cross-training to strengthen supporting muscles or haven’t gradually increased your intensity.

A sprinter may experience hip pain from running at full speed around the curve of a track. Rotator cuff injuries can occur in sports that involve throwing, like the javelin, shot put, and baseball and softball. Soccer players can pull their groin from repeatedly taking long kicks.

If You Suspect A Sports Injury, Don’t Put Off Care

A doctor’s office is often the last place eager athletes want to be at the start of the season. But pain should not be a regular part of your training program. If you think you’ve sustained an injury, trying to push through often makes it worse.

Making time to see the doctor can be challenging, especially if you have to miss a practice or game for your appointment. But it’s worth it. “The sooner you get evaluated, the sooner we can get you on the path to recovery,” Dr. Medellin says.

The opposite can be said when treatments are delayed. “The longer you’ve had an injury, the longer it may take to heal,” explains Dr. Medellin. “And first-line treatments aren’t as likely to be successful, which can mean more time away from your sport.”

Sports Injury Treatments That Keep You In The Game

Seeing a doctor doesn’t always mean you’ll have to sit out the season. Treatment may include intermittent rest, as long as you don’t have a severe injury like a stress fracture or tendon tear. “We may recommend a return to sport at a lower intensity or with additional rest days to see if the pain goes away,” says Dr. Medellin.

Patients with minor injuries might also benefit from physical therapy between practices. Physical therapists can correct poor form. They can also help you safely stretch and strengthen injured muscles to promote healing. Conditioning through Henry Ford Health's sports performance program can also speed recovery and prevent injury.

“A sports medicine doctor’s goal is to keep athletes active and involved in the sport they love,” says Dr. Medellin. “That’s what I want for my patients.”

To find a sports medicine provider at Henry Ford Health, visit henryford.com/sportsmedicine or call 313-651-1969.

Joseph Medellin, M.D., is a primary care sports medicine doctor at Henry Ford Medical Center-Jackson.

Coach's Guide to Nutrition: Window of Opportunity

The 30 minutes following exercise, often referred to as the window of opportunity, is the best time to begin to refuel, rebuild and repair muscles.

Milk Means More logoCarbs plus protein in this window can help your students refuel and be ready to attack their next workout.  

After an exercise session or game, muscles are depleted of glycogen, their primary energy source, and are in need of recovery from the stress of training. A small snack is all that is needed in this “window of opportunity.”

The focus should be on carbohydrates with some protein; the ideal snack would have more carbs than protein. Chocolate milk has both carbs and protein, along with electrolytes and fluids to rehydrate. Liquids are also more easily absorbed by the body to help refueling happen more quickly. Other refueling options could include a smoothie, yogurt and granola, or a cheese stick with fruit.

Within 2-3 hours, have a full meal to continue recovery.

Information above is excerpted from UDIM’s A Coach’s Guide to Nutrition.