As we saw last month with Blizzard Jonas, the weather at this time of year can be highly unpredictable. This is just one of several reasons why Spring is so treacherous for athletes and so fraught with injuries. This week I’m going to run you through some of the main reasons why people get injured in the Spring, along with some tips on how best to prevent this.
Why does Spring cause injuries?
As I mentioned above, the weather in Springtime can be as unexpected as it is changeable, moving from the freezing cold in early Spring and early morning, to sunnier, warmer weather in the middle of the day and towards the start of Summer. This means athletes must be prepared for both – just because it is cold when you start training in the morning, doesn’t mean you will want to be wearing warm kit at midday, when temperatures are at their highest.
Secondly, the Spring season begins right after the holidays, when many athletes have taken a break from training during the winter or have been enjoying a well-deserved vacation. This pause, however small, means that you will have to ease yourself back into training slowly and carefully - if you push too hard too soon, you run the risk of hurting yourself.
As if that wasn’t enough, sports with seasons which begin in the spring are among some of the most notorious for causing both short and long-term injuries. Baseball and softball can lead to shoulder injuries, Lacrosse is known for knee injuries, such as ACL tears, Tennis can cause elbow injuries, Golf often brings lower back trouble, and Track is known for causing shin splints and pain in the outside of your leg, if not properly prepared for.
So how do you avoid these problems?
1. Before you go back, go have a physical check up with your doctor to make sure there are no underlying issues which could get worse when you train.
2. Take care of your muscles. When it’s cold, your muscles can contract and become stiff - start off slower than you normally would, warm up for longer than usual and do not stretch while standing in place. Similarly, you can get cramp when temperatures are too hot. Muscles regulate body heat by releasing sweat which leads to drop in fluids meaning you risk dehydration and heat exhaustion. Make sure you are wearing appropriate lightweight fabrics if it’s hot and drink plenty of water.
3. Do pre-habilitation exercises for the areas of your body you know will be trouble spots – e.g. shoulders, knees, elbows etc.
4. Practice the “heart rate method” – as good way to re-train your body for spring sports safely. Subtract your age from 220 – this will give you your maximum heart rate. Try to reach 75% your maximum heart rate for 30 minutes, 3-5 times a week in the weeks building up to the start of training.
5. Practice basic common Sense. Wear the correct clothing and be aware of changing temperatures throughout the day. If it’s warm and sunny – wear sunscreen and don’t exercise at midday. And, above all, listen to your body – if you feel sick or sore, STOP. It sounds simple – because it is!
Follow these tips and you should be all set for exercising all through the Spring, injury-free. And if you do have any problems, see your doctor immediately.