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Stay in the Game: 5 Tips to Prevent Sports Injuries

If you play sports or are very physically active, chances are you’ve experienced an injury. When putting any kind of strain on the body on a regular basis, it’s without question that you’re going to get injured at some point, whether minor or major. According to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, children and teens, middle-aged adults, and women are the most susceptible to injury.

Heather Poehler, for one, was a competitive roller derby skater and coach, when she broke her leg one day. After surgery, she was left in a lot of pain and was not improving. After multiple appointments with several orthopaedic surgeons, she sought help at Penn Medicine. One appointment with a Penn orthopaedic trauma surgeon, and she immediately placed full trust in him. Shortly after examining Poehler and her imaging scans, her new physician immediately saw the problem, and within a short amount of time following treatment, she was back to her old self.

“For me, it was like a miracle,” she said. “I got to skate again and not be in pain.”

Poehler, unfortunately, could not avoid her injury, as sometimes accidents do happen. However, it is beneficial to, whenever possible, try to avoid injuries before they occur.

Before your next activity, consider these 5 tips:

1. Start gradually and get your body ready.

If you had a final exam coming up, wouldn’t you study? Physical activity is no different. If you’re going to run a 5K, you should never just jump right into it. If you’re new to running, for example, start with a combination of walking and jogging until you build up your endurance and increase your pace.

2. Know your limits and don’t overdo it.

Don’t overextend yourself. Remember that moderation is key with most things in life. If your body isn’t properly prepared for a strenuous physical activity, it will give out. In general, with any activity, overuse puts strain on your joints and leads to injury and joint and muscle pain.

3. Wear the proper equipment and headgear.

The importance of wearing the required equipment cannot be emphasized enough. If you “don’t feel like putting it on” you are putting yourself at risk for injury. Helmets, gloves, protective pads, mouth guards and other equipment are necessary for certain activities.

4. Warm up and cool down.

You may be thinking, “Does warming up really make that much difference?” The truth is that it does. Muscles after warm ups are less susceptible to injury. According to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, it is important to warm up before both rigorous activities and less strenuous ones. A five-minute cool down is also necessary following any vigorous exercise.

5. Take time to rest.

It’s never a good idea to perform strenuous physical activity every day without taking a day or two to rest. You should also refrain from engaging in excessive physical activity when in pain because you’ll be more susceptible to injury. And if you do get injured, it’s best to rest to avoid putting more strain on your joints.

With this set of tips in mind, you’ll be less likely to get hurt and more likely to get fit and have fun.

Penn Medicine’s brand-new, state-of-the-art Musculoskeletal Center—which conveniently brings together multiple medical specialties—is a team of doctors, nurses, and physical therapists who take a whole-body approach to diagnosing and treating joints, muscles, and bones. Seek medical care at Penn’s Musculoskeletal Center for advanced treatment in orthopaedics, physical medicine and rehabilitation, pain medicine, and rheumatology. Visit www.PennMedicine.org/MSK, or call 215-615-2576.