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Your Health
A Noozhawk partnership with Cottage Health

How You Can Protect Yourself from Sports Injuries

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(Cottage Health photo via iStock photo)

It’s a common concern for athletes and nonathletes alike: How can you protect yourself from sports injuries?

You faithfully wear your goggles on the racquetball court, you never go in-line skating without your pads and helmet, and you stretch like a fanatic, yet you still get sidelined by injuries. What’s going on?

Although safety precautions are indispensable, there’s more to staying injury-free than avoiding flying projectiles and cushioning your falls. Athletes often overlook measures that can protect them from problems like sore knees and sprained ankles.

There’s no sure way to take the pain out of sports, but the following advice can definitely help you stay in the game. Here are some tips for preventing the most common aches and pains.

Overuse Injuries

“Many people associate sports injuries with broken bones and torn tendons, but in noncontact sports, the vast majority of injuries come on gradually,” said Dr. Jervis Tau, an orthopedic surgeon affiliated with the Cottage Center for Orthopedics.

Stress that builds over weeks or months can cause aching kneecaps, stress fractures, shin splints, pulled muscles, strained hamstrings, tenderness in the Achilles tendon, or burning pain in the heel.

These problems strike most athletes at one time or another. Doctors call them “overuse injuries,” but you don’t necessarily have to work out extra hard or long to get them. Worn-out shoes, uneven running surfaces, and quirks of body structure can contribute to pushing your muscles, tendons and bones past their limits.

Here are some tips for preventing overuse injuries:

» Warm up before stretching.

» Don’t push through significant pain. Real discomfort is often a protective signal that something’s wrong or that you’re asking more from a part of your body than it can provide at the moment.

» Increase your workouts gradually. If you’re a runner, don’t bump up your mileage by more than 10 percent per week.

» Don’t run more than 45 miles per week. Running farther than that doesn’t pay off: It probably won’t improve your stamina, and it definitely increases your risk of injury.

» Running on soft, flat surfaces will decrease your chance of getting an overuse injury.

» Alternate hard training days with light days. Rest is an important part of training at every level. Your body needs it.

» Get new running shoes every 500 miles. With use, shoes lose their ability to absorb shock and provide support.

» If you pronate (the inside of your foot leans in) or have other alignment problems, you may benefit from over the counter shoe inserts or custom orthotics. Ask your doctor what might work best for you.

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