From the Heart and Stroke Foundation

Being active is a lot of fun and good for your heart health. Whether you’re playing a pickup basketball game in the local park, going to the driving range to hit a few balls or participating in a local baseball league, it’s important to be prepared in order to avoid injury. Take these five steps to prevent injuries so you can stay in the game:

  1. Warm up and cool down. Five to 10 minutes of pre-sport activity can seriously reduce the risk of injury. Warm up by doing movements similar to what you will be doing in your selected activity. Jog for soccer, skate for hockey, practice some putts and chips for golf, or loosen up with a few slow tennis swings. During your warm up and cool down some light stretching will help keep your body loose and refreshed. Remember to add 10 to 15 minutes of stretching to your daily routine to ensure your body is ready for the challenges of your activity of choice. (link it to your previous stretching article)
  2. Know the rules of the game. Trying a new activity? Search the rules on the internet.
  3. Wear the right equipment. You can avoid injury by getting the proper safety and sports equipment. Wearing inappropriate shoes or using the wrong size clubs can lead to sore muscles – or worse.
  4. Train for your sport. Take lessons from a tennis or golf pro or other expert.
  5. Don't play or push through the pain when you're injured. Remember the goal is keeping active for the long term, not just winning the day’s event. Listen to your body and seek the help of a medical professional if necessary.

Sometimes no matter how prepared you are, injuries still occur. Here are the 5 most common sport-related injuries and some tips for prevention and treatment.

Ankle sprains and strains – basketball, soccer
Multiple factors can lead to ankle sprains, including poor technique and uneven terrain. The right footwear is essential to preventing a sprain, but it is not the only thing you can do. If you have a history of ankle injuries, a brace can provide extra stability to prevent re-injury. Physical therapy after an injury can increase strength and range of motion.

Knee pain – running, soccer, biking
Knee injuries are often caused by improper technique, lack of conditioning and poor flexibility. While it is important to build up training gradually to avoid overuse, body positioning can also come into play. Appropriate footwear or orthotics can improve alignment and help reduce injury risk. If you are a cyclist, proper bike fit can also make a huge difference. Your local sporting goods store should have a bike specialist who can recommend the right frame size for you.

Lower-back pain – golf
Lower back pain is a common problem and one of the main reasons for inactivity. As we get older and less active, we lose the strength and balance in the core muscles (abs and low back), which can lead to poor posture, improper alignment, fatigue and pain. Regular physical activity and strength training are the best ways to protect your lower back.

Elbow pain – tennis
Tennis players and golfers have more elbow injuries than most, but anyone can develop elbow pain. Although conditioning is a major cause, proper technique is essential to preventing problems. Take a class or get professional instruction. Also, make sure your equipment fits well.

Shoulder injuries – baseball, skiing
Frequently seen in throwing sports, rotator cuff tendonitis is a common cause of shoulder pain. Staying in shape and easing into an activity are the best ways to prevent problems. There are a number of potential shoulder injuries, however, so proper conditioning is essential for your sport.

If you do experience an injury, remember R.I.C.E.

  • Rest will prevent further injury and will allow healing.
  • Ice will stop the swelling. It constricts injured blood vessels and limits the bleeding in the injured area.
  • Compression further limits swelling and supports the injured joint.
  • Elevation uses gravity to reduce swelling in the injured area by reducing blood flow.

If pain persists for more than 48 hours, seek the advice of a medical professional.

Before starting any activity program, be sure to talk to your doctor or other healthcare professional.

This physical activity column was written by a Certified Personal Trainer Professional and Fitness Instructor and reviewed by a specialist in kinesiology.

Posted: June 2010

Heart and Stroke Foundation


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