Summer is peak time for being outdoors and staying active. Running, hiking, golfing, sand volleyball and baseball are just a few sports that gear up with warm, sunny weather.
Along with increased activity comes the potential for injury, especially if you don’t take care of yourself.
Follow these five tips for staying healthy and performing at your best.
1. Stretch It Out
Before you exercise, get your blood pumping and do some stretching for a five-minute warm up. Stretch again for five minutes after an activity.
“When joints are tight, you’re more likely to have an injury,” says Andrew Islam, MD, orthopedic surgeon and sports medicine specialist.
Stretches decrease strains and sprains and minimize chronic irritation and pain. Especially focus on your hamstring and Achilles tendon if your activity keeps you on your feet.
If you experience a strain or sprain, use the RICE formula:
- Rest your injured limb and allow it to heal.
- Ice it for 20 minutes at a time several times a day.
- Compress the injury with an Ace bandage to help reduce swelling.
- Elevate the injured area, also to reduce swelling.
Tylenol and ibuprofen can help relieve pain.
If you can’t put weight on a foot or leg after 72 hours, see a doctor, who can order an X-ray. Prolonged sharp pain and swelling in your arm also merits medical attention. If sprains and strains are treated and rehabbed well, they generally don’t cause long-term problems.
2. Don’t Overdo
Specialization in a single competitive sport year-round, such as swimming, baseball and running has led to a sharp increase in overuse injuries in young people.
“Kids and teenagers who have injuries from doing the same activity over and over never give their bodies a chance to heal,” Dr. Islam says.
He sees elbow injuries in athletes who pitch too much and rotator cuff injuries from swimming continuously on school teams and other swim teams.
“The injuries we’re seeing in young people formerly occurred at the college or professional level,” Dr. Islam says. “It’s good to be active, but to do different things and play different sports.”
He also recommends cross training for people as they get older. Runners can switch things up with swimming and biking.
Dr. Islam adds, “It’s great to be active, but avoid chronic injuries by letting your body rest now and then.”
3. Replace Shoes Often
“Most runners keep their shoes too long,” Dr. Islam believes.
“For running in particular, have a dedicated pair of shoes and track your mileage. Replace your shoes every 300 to 500 miles, depending on how light you are on your feet,” Dr. Islam says.
Consequences of wearing shoes with worn soles include Achilles tendinitis, stress fractures in the foot or shin bone, plantar fasciitis and tendinitis in the foot.
4. Handle the Heat
Remember to stay hydrated as temperatures rise.
“Our muscles are more than 70 percent water. When you’re dehydrated, it decreases muscle function and your overall performance. You want to drink enough water from a safety and a performance perspective. Muscles without water lose power and endurance.”
He recommends hydrating before an event—at least 20 ounces of water an hour before a high-energy activity.
“Particularly for sports that require a lot of running, if you wait until you’re thirsty, it’s almost too late,” Dr. Islam says.
For young athletes in training, such as football players or cross country runners, trainers often have the athletes weigh themselves before and after practice.
“For every pound you lose, you need to drink an extra 15 ounces of fluid,” he advises.
Dr. Islam says water is generally best, although drinks like Gatorade can help restore electrolytes for long endurance activities. Fruits and vegetables also help your system to recalibrate.
And don’t forget to wear sunscreen, which not only protects your skin but helps keep your body temperature cooler.
5. Don’t Play through Pain
Dr. Islam advises against playing through chronic, nagging pain that happens over and over. If your injury improves with ice and elevation over three or four days, you’re OK to keep playing. Otherwise, see a sports medicine specialist, primary care doctor or orthopedic specialist for evaluation and treatment.
Andrew Islam, MD, an orthopedic surgeon and sports medicine specialist with TriHealth Orthopedic and Sports Institute, sees patients at 7023 Mason-Montgomery Road. To schedule an appointment or for more information, call 513-791-6611.