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Sports injuries soar in the spring

Apr 17th, 2012
LifeApps, Inc.

Tennis elbowSports injury rates increase dramatically in the spring as people who have been unable to pursue their favorite sports during the winter months get back into action.

Unfortunately, many sports enthusiasts and fitness buffs don't take the time or care to ease into their activities, said Dr. Pietro Tonino, director of sports medicine at Loyola University Health System.

"We see it every spring," Tonino said. "Athletes who haven't been active all winter suddenly return to action without proper training and conditioning and wind up hurting themselves needlessly."

Working out and playing sports holds many health and psychological benefits. But injuries need to be prevented, experts say. According to the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine:

  • More than 3.7 million people go to the emergency room each year for sports-related injuries.
  • About 3.5 million people receive outpatient care for sports-related injuries.
  • In athletes older than 25, recreational sports such as golf and racquet sports account for 2.1 injuries per 1,000 people.
  • In athletes older than 25, exercising, including running and walking, accounts for 1.9 injuries per 1,000 people.

Recreational athletes can suffer acute injuries, such as wrist fractures, ankle sprains and shoulder dislocations as well as overuse injuries, such as tennis elbow, swimmer's shoulder, runner's knee and shin splints.

"Overuse injuries typically occur when athletes try to do too much, too quickly," Tonino said. "The old training rule of 'no pain, no gain' is a recipe for injuries."

Ideally, an athlete should remain active and do conditioning exercises year-round.

"An athlete who has spent the winter on the couch should return to action gradually, taking four to six weeks before going 100 percent," he said.

Tonino endorses these safe-exercise tips from the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons' STOP Sports Injuries campaign:

  • Use proper equipment. Replace worn athletic shoes and wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothes
  • A fitness program should include cardiovascular, strength training and flexibility exercises.
  • Warm up and stretch before exercise, and make cooling down the final phase of your exercise routine.
  • Drink enough water to prevent dehydration.
  • Take days off from exercise and rest when tired.