As we come to the end of May the weather is warming up, people are spending more time outside and…hospitals are getting busier. Summer is peak sports injury season with a higher number of emergency room visits than any other time of the year. So, in this week’s blog, we want to help you avoid the wards and enjoy the weather by preventing those unwelcome summer sports injuries.
Why does Summer cause injuries?
It is not difficult to see why the arrival of the sunshine might precipitate a rise in trips to the hospital. After months spent indoors, weekend warriors – and even some professional athletes – are keen to get back into their favorite sports and often jump in before they are ready. And these injuries do not necessarily correlate to experience level either. For runners and high school and college athletes, summer is the time to start training in earnest before fall sports and race season kicks off.
Unfortunately, some of America’s top summer sports are also the highest ranking for injury among the over 25s. Cycling comes in at the top, followed by basketball, softball, football and soccer. The most common injuries include pulled muscles, ankle sprains, tendonitis, stress fractures and plantar fasciitis (a disorder which causes pain in the heel and bottom of the foot), none of which may seem serious but, over time, could lead to you having to quit your favorite sport for good.
So how do you avoid these problems?
The first, and most important thing to do, is prepare in the run up to summer. Be you a pro athlete or a weekend activity fan, easing into your chosen activity is a must. Going from zero to 100 immediately can only cause problems, so take four to six weeks gradually building up to normal activity levels.
If the weather outside is putting you off over the pre-summer months, there are plenty of ways to exercise your key muscles at home. Exercises like running, indoor strengthening and indoor cycling or spinning will work wonders. Identify the muscle groups you will be using and focus on those especially. Cyclists and runners should undertake lower body workouts, and tennis players should spend time toning the arms and shoulders. Almost all injuries can be in part prevented by a stronger core, so be sure to incorporate that in your workout too.
Once you have got back into your sport of choice, be mindful of your routine and any changes you might make and any small pains you might be feeling so you can stop potential problems in their tracks. Changed your grip slightly? Perhaps that is unwise. Always run on the same track? Maybe change it up a little, giving your knees a break on softer surfaces, or pushing yourself with new curves and inclines.
Most important of all, be aware of the two biggest injury-causes at this time of year: heat and dehydration. The main signs of heat illness include cold, clammy skin, lack of sweating, headaches, dizziness, loss of coordination, muscle cramps and nausea. Your body can generate up to twenty times as much heat as it normally does when you are exercising and that, coupled with the summer sun, can cause real unpleasantness. Avoid it by wearing light, non-cotton clothes which wick water away from the skin and trying not to exercise at the hottest times of the day.
Whatever the weather, hydration is key when you are exercising. If you get thirsty mid-activity, you are probably already one litre of fluid depleted. Get hydrated early on, with 17-20 ounces of fluid three hours before exercising, then another 10 ounces half an hour before. If you are going to be exercising for more than 45 minutes, make sure to have a drink with added carbohydrates or electrolytes ready for afterwards. Simply put, your dehydrated muscles will not work as well as they could, and you are more likely to pull a muscle, so it is best not to risk it.
Ultimately, summer is a great time to be active and make the most of the sunshine and the great outdoors, so be smart about it and you can enjoy the whole thing, pain-free.