Tennis play with an ankle injury.

I seem to get sports injuries too frequently — how can I prevent them?

If it seems that you get hurt too frequently during recreational sports, you are not alone. While it is true that, whether for physiological or physical reasons, some people are more prone to injury, much of the time those who suffer more sports injuries than their teammates may not be preparing properly for increased activity in their push to play or their drive to win. 

During these days of social distancing due to the pandemic, when the fear of contagion is so great, you may feel that your isolation from other players makes your risk of injury slight. Nonetheless, it is vital to pay attention to the cautions below — after all, the last thing you want now is to require hospital care. 

If you find yourself getting hurt too often during sports activities, it is a good idea to visit a well-credentialed, highly experienced team of rehabilitation medicine specialists, like those at Long Island Spine Rehabilitation Medicine to get yourself checked out, by video conferencing if necessary. You may have a musculoskeletal weakness that underlies your propensity to injuries, or you may simply need to take things more slowly and build up more gradually before putting stress on particular bones, muscles, or joints. This is true while you’re exercising on your own or when it becomes possible to rejoin your teammates.

At Long Island Spine, we have the knowledge and sensitivity to examine you thoroughly and carefully to make certain that you don’t have an underlying condition you may not be aware of. We also have the cutting edge diagnostic equipment to make certain that we verify our insights. We are in an ideal position to inform you of any precautions you have to take before engaging in sports activities, especially ones new to you, and to let you know if you need to treat any existing injury before going heading into the fray.

Consider the Following Before Getting Up Off the Couch

While there are those who go overboard in their preplanning, for example, spending money on expensive golf clubs before they ever set foot on the course, too many people exert their bodies in unfamiliar ways without any preparation. Individuals who enthusiastically skateboard, play football, or throw a discus without being taught the basics are much more likely to come home with a gash or sprain than those who have prepped for the experience. Before beginning a new sports activity, you should:

  • Make sure that you wear any necessary protective gear (e.g. helmet, protective pads, cup, cleats). Remember that protective gear is sport-specific (bike helmets differ from football helmets) and make sure that your gear fits your body.
  • Learn how to warm up before and cool down after the exertion from someone who understands which muscle groups you will be using during play. Stretching exercises are important because the more easily your muscles can contract and relax, the less likely you will be to sustain an injury. Stretches should begin slowly and end at a point of muscle tension held for approximately 20 seconds. It is important to note that stretching should not be painful. Also, it is recommended that your cool down take twice as long as your warm-up.
  • Know the fundamental rules of the game to prevent foreseeable collisions, trips, or eye pokes from, for example, running in the wrong direction on the field.
  • Be careful not to endanger others and be careful to protect yourself. Though “it’s only a game,” games can get pretty aggressive. Moreover, it is often during periods of fooling around that people get hurt. Don’t throw the bat; don’t play at being stags in battle while wearing your helmets; don’t try to swing a hockey stick like a bat or your bat like a golf club. Even doing something as relaxing as jumping on a trampoline can result in serious injuries when many people are jumping simultaneously. 
  • Stay alert. As when driving a car, paying attention is crucial, even when everything appears to be under control. Just as there is inherent danger in taking your eyes off the road when you are sharing that road with heavy vehicles moving quickly, you can’t look away when vigorous opponents are skating rapidly towards you armed with hockey sticks.
  • Don’t try to be a hero by playing after you’ve been injured; you’re likely to worsen the damage significantly, putting yourself out of the game for a prolonged period of time. Instead do what your doctor recommends, including participating in sufficient rehabilitation before resuming vigorous activity.
  • Make sure to take breaks from each sport. Because each sport tends to use one or two particular sets of muscles, it is important to work out or do another sports activity some of the time. If you overuse one arm playing tennis, for example, you are more likely to cause yourself repetitive use injuries to that arm. 
  • Always remain hydrated to avoid muscle spasms, electrolyte imbalance, and heat exhaustion or heat stroke.

It is generally beneficial to develop a fitness plan that involves cardiovascular exercise, strength training, and flexibility. Alternating among these three types of exercise will make your regimen more balanced as well as more comprehensive, and, therefore, make you less prone to injury. Most sports professionals consider it best to alternate among different muscle groups, both for variety and to give one muscle group a rest at least every other day.

When You Do Sustain a Sports Injury, Treat It Promptly

If, in spite of all precautions, you do get injured playing a sport, whether in your own yard, in a local park, or on a professional field or court, make sure to get medical attention as soon as possible. You are much more likely to recover in a short period of time if you rest and bring down inflammation quickly with ice and/or anti-inflammatory medication. If you can, elevate the injured part of your body. In many cases, compression, as with an ace bandage, is also helpful. 

If, in spite of these home remedies, the pain and swelling worsen, you should see your pain management/rehabilitation doctor (physiatrist) for guidance. Getting in touch with Long Island Spine will put you in the hands of caring specialists who can diagnose and treat you efficiently and effectively.