Olympian Advice on Preventing Sports Injuries   

Olympian Advice on Preventing Sports Injuries

Neither Olympians nor weekend warriors are immune to tendinitis, ankle sprains, low back problems and knee pain. While common, these injuries can often be prevented with proper conditioning.

"Activities like tennis, softball, cycling, volleyball or basketball can cause people to exert a lot of pressure on their muscles and joints," says Scott Rodeo, M.D., a former competitive swimmer who was a member of the 2004 U.S. Olympic Committee medical staff.

"The most common cause of injury is going too far, too fast, too soon, but it can often be prevented if you bring the body along slowly," adds Rodeo.

Before starting or changing an exercise program, get the OK from your health care provider. Once you're cleared, start your workouts gently and slowly, and work up to more aggressive training or play.

"IF you normally walk two miles a day and want to improve your fitness, don't suddenly jump to 4 miles," says Dr. Rodeo. "Slowly build up to more miles until you reach your goal."

Before starting your workout, always warm up first. Your warm-up should include 3 minutes to 5 minutes of low-level cardiovascular exercise such as light jogging, brisk walking or cycling, and easy movement patterns mimicking your sports activity.

When your muscles have warmed up, you should stretch, focusing on the muscles you will use in your exercise routine. Hold each stretch for 20 seconds to 60 seconds.
Don't stretch to the point of pain.

When you begin your exercise, listen to your body. If you feel pain, stop. "As you age, you may find you lose flexibility or your body can't tolerate the same activities it once did,"
Rodeo says. "You can prevent injury by modifying your activities to accommodate your abilities."

After finishing your exercise routine, take time for a cool-down. A cool-down can help minimize light headedness and sore muscles, the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) says. During your cool down, decrease the intensity of your exercise. Continue this for 5 minutes to 10 minutes and follow with light stretching, the ACSM says.

Learn the correct technique-and practice it. "Olympic athletes work long and hard to maximize their movement patterns and allow for efficient movement," says Rodeo.

Lessons are a worthwhile investment, whether you're a beginner or have been playing sports for a long time. Proper form and instruction reduce the chances of developing an overuse injury, such as tendinitis or stress fractures.

In addition to good technique, you should use the proper equipment for your sport. Bicycle helmets, kneepads and protective goggles are examples of equipment must fit properly and be worn consistently. Make sure what use is in good condition.

Don't be a "weekend warrior." Compressing your physical activity into a day or two can lead to overuse injuries and won't improve your fitness. Try to get at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity three or four times a week.

Develop a fitness program that includes not only aerobic exercise, but also strength training and stretches.

"Besides providing a total-body workout, a balanced program will keep you from getting bored and reduce your chance for injury, Rodeo says.

Happy reading,

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