In the moment, it’s easy to forget that offseason workouts are just a conditioning tool – a supplemental run-through to keep your body ready for the upcoming season. But as we get ready to head back to school and into fall athletics, it’s important to know the do’s and don’ts of regular season preparation.
By handling their practice workload in a strategic manner, an athlete can preserve their body and protect themselves from unnecessary pain and frustration. Proper strength and conditioning can be the difference between scoring the game-winning goal and being on the bench with a cast to see it happen.
Though every athlete is anxious to play as soon as they get to the field, taking the time to stretch beforehand can make a valuable difference. It’s recommended that an athlete spends about 10-15 minutes going through a series of warm up exercises and stretching routines before engaging in rigorous activity.
The human body needs time to adjust to the hyper-active state it’s being put into. Warming up increases blood flow as well as body temperature, helping to reduce the risk of a muscle strain or other injury by loosening the joints. Additionally, proper stretching before working out will increase flexibility in the joints and muscles that we put strain on while playing sports. Over time, this pre-game preparation becomes a crucial part of maintaining a healthy body.
That’s especially true for fall sports like tennis, football, and lacrosse. When these games are played on a wet or muddy surface, the risk for a strain or sprain becomes even higher. It only takes one slip to keep an athlete out for weeks, or even months, while they recover. Whether it’s stopping on a dime to track down a ball, or winding up to throw it across the field, acclimating your body to these movements before playing at full speed can be critical in preventing injury.
After physically exerting ourselves for a long period of time, our body needs a chance to relax and come back to ground zero. One of the best means of getting your heart rate to normal after a workout is to go through a series of cool down exercises. Walking for a few minutes after training helps to lower the body temperature at a gradual pace. Simultaneously, it also gives the athlete an opportunity to focus on their breathing. This is a great way to ensure that the trainee doesn’t begin to feel lightheaded or pass out, which can happen more frequently in the hotter months.
Because of this, two-a-day practices can be risky - yet have understandably become commonplace among high school, college, and professional sports teams. There is a lot to gain from them: Athletes get the extra time needed to improve their physical condition and hone their athletic craft. For football players specifically, is an easy way to beat the heat that comes with practicing in the middle of the summer. However, without proper attention to their daily workout routine, it’s also an easy way to sustain an injury.
Cool down stretches are another great habit for athletes, young and old. Aside from enhancing recovery speed, they promote long-term muscle and joint longevity too. According the report by the American Heart Association, post-workout stretches should feel purposeful and strong, but never painful. If you feel pain when stretching, you may be causing unnecessary stress and discomfort.
Preventing Overuse Injuries
As a competitor, there’s no greater feeling than accomplishing the goals you set out to complete when you first started. It takes hard work, mental resilience, and practice – lots and lots of practice. So much practice, that many athletes find themselves pushing past their physical limitations and falling victim to what orthopaedic specialists call “overuse injuries.”
These injuries are often very preventable, and come as a result of repetitive stress and overexertion. Exclusively using a particular knee, elbow, or shoulder can prove to be more harmful than helpful. But due to the manner in which some sports are played, joint pain and other stress-related injuries are widespread issues among athletes.
Luckily, there are a number of ways to avoid overworking a particular joint or muscle. “Simple changes in technique, equipment, intensity, and duration of activity can effectively prevent overuse injuries from occurring,” says Dr. Christopher C. Dodson of Rothman Orthopaedic Institute. Conditions like tennis elbow and runner’s knee are easily avoidable by changing up technique, intensity, and duration of activity. Many athletes who deal with these nagging injuries find out that a modest revision to their form or routine can go a long way in making sure they never deal with it again.
Knowing When To See A Doctor
Though not all pain requires medical attention, being aware of it is the first step to staying healthy as we approach the new season. Any ongoing discomfort surrounding a particular bone or joint often means that there is an underlying issue. Addressing these issues as soon as possible can make for a more effective treatment and shorter recovery time.
There are several red flags to help you determine when it’s time to see a doctor. Something as simple as a swollen knee or elbow can mean countless things, but it’s often a temporary issue that can be dealt with using the RICE method: rest, ice, compression, and elevation. This treatment helps to alleviate minor joint pain, and doesn’t require doctor supervision.
However, recurrent problems in the same area may mean it’s time to get medical advice from a Rothman Orthopaedics specialist. Joints that “give way” or otherwise have frequent issues should be seen sooner rather than later. The longer that an injury goes untreated, the more necessary surgery may become for a full repair of the tendon or ligament.
This is especially true for places where an athlete feels/hears a painful pop upon movement. While nonpainful “popping” is usually normal, a pinching or throbbing sensation can be signs of something more serious. Any repeated discomfort may require medical attention from a specialist.
Don’t let offseason workouts keep you out of the game. Attention to detail goes a long way in preparing your body for the new season ahead. But just in case, you can always trust the doctors at Rothman Orthopaedic Institute to get you back on the field.
To learn more about our available sports medicine services, visit us here or contact us at 800-321-9999.