Get out and have fun but beware overuse injuries

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FEATURE — School’s almost out, and that means more time to get the family together and have some fun. Southern Utah is full of opportunities to be physically active, including sports teams, national parks and plenty of trails for biking. With so much to do in the summer months, it can be easy to push yourself a little too hard and end up with an injury due to exertion or overuse, which means you’ll spend more time resting than playing.

Overuse injuries

It’s good to be physically active, but sometimes too much of a good thing can actually be bad for you.

“I commonly see patients trying to be more active with overuse injuries like a tendinitis or a stress fracture,” said Revere Health orthopedist Aaron O’Brien, MD. “The repetitive stress on ligaments, tendons, and bone, without allowing adequate time to recover, can lead to injuries that may require a lengthy recovery.”

Repetitive stress during physical activity can occur due to a variety of causes, such as:

  • Intense exercise, which can put greater strain on bones, tendons or ligaments.
  • Lack of variety in activity or exercise.
  • Lack of proper conditioning.
  • Improper technique or equipment.

“Activities like pickleball, tennis, baseball, soccer, running and hiking can all produce overuse injuries,” O’Brien said. “While participating in sports or other physical activities, people need to make sure they are listening to their bodies. When something hurts, it’s a good idea to give it a little rest.”

Preventing overuse injuries

The best way to prevent overexertion and injury is to do a proper warmup before physical activity.

“Taking 5-10 minutes to warm up your body and stretch will significantly reduce the chance of being injured and improve your performance,” O’Brien said.

This is because a good warmup gets the blood flowing and prepares the body for the exercise it is about to do.

“As we age, our muscles, tendons, ligaments, and bones don’t recover as quickly due to reduced blood supply to certain areas where more common overuse injuries are seen,” O’Brien said. “A proper warmup before activities along with a good cool down goes a long way in preventing injuries.”

You should give yourself adequate time to warm up based on the level of physical activity. The American Heart Association recommends taking five minutes for more casual exercise up to 10 minutes for intense workouts.

Starting slow is another important factor to warming up right. If you are going to be doing a lot of running or cycling, make sure to warm up with a light jog or a quick walk, and find stretches that will ease stress on the joints and tendons you will activate during your exercise or physical activity. If you’re not sure what stretches you should be doing, talk to your doctor.

Cooling down after physical activity can also prevent injury. Do some slow cardio with gentle stretching, following these recommendations from the National Safety Council:

  • Stretching should never be painful, so if it hurts, stop.
  • Relax. Forced stretching can cause damage.
  • Don’t stretch a cold muscle.
  • Move slowly into and out of each stretching position.
  • Hold each position for 10-30 seconds.
  • Make stretching a habit.

In addition to warming up and cooling down, doing strength exercises can help prevent muscle overuse. As your muscles get stronger, they can withstand more stress.

“You don’t have to be a bodybuilder, but gentle weight lifting can make a big difference in strengthening your muscles and helping you avoid overuse injuries,” O’Brien said.

Be sure to change up your routine to prevent overworking one muscle group. Focus on certain muscle groups each day. For example, just do leg exercises on day one, and on day two exercise your arms and back. Giving yourself a rest day will also help all your muscles to recover.

When you go out with family or friends, make sure you are taking the correct steps to prevent injury.

“It’s important to wear safety equipment and try to avoid activities that can put you at an increased risk,” O’Brien said.

Taking proper precautions will not only lower the risk of overuse injury but will help you enjoy the benefits of being physically active this summer.

•  S P O N S O R E D   C O N T E N T  •

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