Written by Chris Gilbaugh, DC
As we slowly drift back into school mode, many athletes are turning their attention back to getting in shape. Participating in sports can be a great way to become more physically fit, develop friendships and grow as a person. This makes it all the more important that injuries are avoided. When an activity is too intense, too long or too repetitive, injury is likely. Set the stage for a successful new season by practicing moderation, being prepared and using correct technique.
The following are a few basic tips to mind when increasing physical activity. Be aware that many sports have specific guidelines to help direct you further. If you have any concerns or unique considerations be sure to seek out advice from a professional.
1: Be prepared.
At least at a basic level, prepare yourself for what you are about to do. Wear appropriate gear and stay hydrated. Learn the requirements of your activity and plan your time and efforts accordingly. Carefully build up to more advanced exercise routines, warmup and stretch.
2: Work within your ability.
While this may seem obvious, there can be a lot of pressure to perform well and out of your comfort zone. Injury occurs when a tissue becomes overwhelmed and fails. This can occur abruptly or over time. The trick is to recognize this limit and stay within its bounds. Since there are many variables involved, common sense is often one of our better guides, though exhaustion can be a strong indication that you are close.
3: Move well before moving often.
When we ignore or lose good form, stress created by our activities can impact joints, bones and muscles in ways they may not be prepared to handle. It is often when the body has unexpected demands that injury occurs. Perfect a task before increasing frequency or intensity. Make an effort to do things right the first time as it can be hard to unlearn bad habits later. Try to avoid the extreme limits of training or fighting through exhaustion as these situations make injury more likely.
4: Diversify your activities.
Although we are taught muscles one at a time, they never work alone. How well and how promptly the different components work together strongly affects our overall efficiency and function. Participating in a variety of exercises or types of sports helps to balance strength, distribute stress and improve coordination. Along the same lines, warmups should replicate the activity or sport to prepare groups of muscles to work together.
5: Take regular breaks.
Regular breaks help reduce the risk of injury by restoring some of our capacity for work, like letting a little water out of a bathtub before it overflows. While this is healthy in general, it also helps protect our joints. A certain amount of tension can be beneficial to our joints by maintaining healthy limits and preventing excessive motion. When they become too loose we lose part of our natural defense against injury. You can help maintain healthy joint tension by regularly taking breaks in a relaxed and “neutral” position (not flexed or bent, extended, twisted etc.). Try to allow yourself at least two minutes during these periods to rest.
6: Address problems quickly if they arise.
Finally, it is important to address injuries as soon as they occur. Watch for sharp or lingering pain, excessive fatigue, generally decreased performance or any unusual symptoms. Get evaluated if you are suspicious of a problem. Young athletes have an amazing ability to compensate for pain and dysfunction. However, if that compensation persists it can cause problems on its own. Remember that pain is your body telling you that something is wrong.
Whether the goal is to gain a competitive edge, lower the risk of injury or recover from one, chiropractic care may help young athletes succeed by improving mobility, coordination and body awareness, addressing compensations and offering drug-free pain management options. After all, there has to be a reason that every NFL team utilizes chiropractic care!
Chiropractic is a form of integrative health care that focuses on the nervous and musculoskeletal systems and their relationship to health and wellness. Special consideration is given to the spine where distortions caused by poor alignment may interfere with other body functions, cause pain or limit mobility. Dr. Gilbaugh is a chiropractor based in Ashland. NorthLakes Community Clinic also offers chiropractic care in Park Falls, Hayward, Hurley and Iron River.