Enjoy an Active Summer Without Sports Injuries

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With temperatures finally rising after a long and frigid winter, Chicago area residents are brushing the cobwebs off their running shoes and getting active. Although exercise and activity are important for a healthy lifestyle, many people are unconditioned and fail to take precautionary steps that can reduce the risk of summer-long injuries. Northwestern Medicine sports medicine expert Michael Terry, MD, offers his advice on proper stretching and conditioning habits for everyone from high-level athletes to weekend warriors.

When getting back into a normal workout routine, stretching is imperative. Adding proper stretching techniques before and after workouts can alleviate stress on the body that often causes injury. Not only does stretching reduce risk of injury, but it can also increase the effectiveness of a workout regiment by increasing blood flow to the muscles and adding flexibility.

"Stretch slowly until you feel a slight pull on the muscle," said Terry, an orthopaedic surgeon at Northwestern Memorial Hospital and associate professor of orthopaedic surgery at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. "When stretching, avoid jerking or fast movements–these abrupt actions often cause injury as they pull forcefully at the muscles adding unnecessary tension."

Many people limit their exercise and physical activity in the winter, so after a season of rest the body needs to be reconditioned to withstand daily exercise. Terry cautions to avoid doing too much too soon by gradually building up to their previous workout level. Without this grace period a number of injuries could occur, including ACL tears, runner's knee, shoulder dislocations, stress fractures, strains, and more.  

Sports injuries are not isolated to this any particular group and can impact men and women of all ages. Medical history, age, weight, and level of physical fitness all contribute to one's likelihood of injury and recovery time when an injury occurs.

Depending on the severity of an injury, recovery time can vary from a couple of days with rest, ice, and anti-inflammatory medication to a year or longer with surgery and physical therapy.

"If an injury leaves you with significant swelling, you have pain with weight bearing or an audible pop occurred, then you should seek medical attention immediately," said Terry.  "If you think you have suffered from a sprain, but pain symptoms have not subsided after a week of conservative treatment, then you should see a medical professional."

With an emphasis on safety and preventive steps to avoid injury, summer workouts can be the platform for a year-round healthy lifestyle.

"Physical activity of any kind is great for the mind and body, so take advantage of the summer weather to get into an exercise routine that spans all seasons," said Terry.


Source: Northwestern Medicine, nmh.org
Click here view a video with Dr. Terry discussing sports injuries.