Preventing a Sports Injury
Though exercise can help you maintain a healthy weight and a well-functioning body, chronic pain often stems from an injury sustained during physical activity. Regardless of your favorite way to stay active, taking a few preventative steps before, during and after working out or playing a sport can help you ensure that you don’t experience an injury that keeps you off your feet.
Sports injuries can include things like:
- Knee injuries
- Ankle sprains
- Injuries of the ligaments and tendons
- Swollen muscles
When such an injury occurs, it is usually caused by improper preparation or an accident during activity. In the case of a serious sports injury, remember to always seek immediate medical attention. If you suffer from chronic pain after a sports injury, visiting a pain management specialist can help you feel better, and you should make sure that your body is completely ready for exercise before becoming active again.
Several strategies can help you minimize your risk of experiencing a sports injury:
Preparation is important for any kind of activity. You can prepare your body for exercise by:
- Getting the right equipment. Though your choice of equipment will depend largely on the kind of sport or activity you’re participating in, it’s important to make sure you have reliable gear. In any activity, footwear is especially important. Check your equipment and be sure that you have supportive footwear before you get started.
- Warming up. A good warm-up will get your blood pumping and your muscles warm and ready for the activity ahead. Typically, the best warm-up is something that begins to put your body through the motions of the activity you will be doing, but at a lower intensity. For example, if you’re warming up for a run, it’s best to jog or walk quickly for about 10 minutes before moving on to a higher speed.
Accidents happen and are sometimes unpreventable. However, you can minimize your chance of experiencing an injury during exercise by:
- Alternating activities. If you do the same activities every day, you can overwork certain muscle groups and make an injury more likely. Doing a variety of different sports and activities can prevent this and help you develop stronger muscles all over your body. Remember that it’s also important to take days off from exercise, especially after a particularly strenuous day.
- Stopping if you’re hurt. Any time you’re in pain, it’s time to call it quits. Trying to play through the pain may make things worse or result in a more serious injury.
Just as you prepare before activity, it can help to unwind afterwards by:
- Cooling down. Like a warm-up in reverse, it’s a good idea to reduce your pace and intensity at the end of your workout.
- Stretching. Gentle stretching can boost blood flow to your muscles and help you maintain a high range of motion in your joints. Stretching is best left for after your workout when your muscles are at their warmest. Don’t bounce or hold a stretch any longer than 30 seconds.
To prevent the acute and chronic pain that a sports injury can cause, remember to be prepared and careful every time you exercise or play a sport.