Whether it’s jogging, golf, tennis, swimming, baseball or soccer, making physical activity part of our daily life is beneficial on many levels. But keep in mind that sports injuries can happen to anyone. Here are ways to prevent them, if possible, and treat them if they occur.
An ounce of prevention
There are several prevention measures you can take to avoid injuring yourself while exercising:
- Warm up 10 to 15 minutes before hitting the pool or field.
- Stretch on a regular basis.
- Train progressively by following the 10-percent rule – in other words increase your training time and intensity no more than 10 percent per week.
- Use proper gear (e.g.: good running shoes, etc.) for a given training surface.
- Learn the correct technique for your discipline.
- Stay well hydrated.
How to treat minor injuries
Cramps, a pulled muscle, a sprain, tennis elbow, swimmer’s shoulder or Achilles tendinitis are common types of injuries you can develop even when you take the necessary precautions. If you have injured yourself, here are some recommendations you can follow for the first 48 to 72 hours:
- Rest: No need to stop using the injured area altogether, but do avoid the movement that caused the injury.
- Cold or heat therapy
- Compression and elevation: For strained or pulled muscles, wrap the injured area with an elastic bandage and keep it elevated.
Heat or ice?
While there is some debate as to the use of heat or ice for sports injuries, their effects are actually well documented.
Heat therapy (hot water bottle, hot pad, hot bath)
- Stimulates blood flow
- Increases cellular activity
- Relaxes muscles
- Promotes tissue elasticity
- Reduces pain
Heat therapy is recommended for cramps, muscle soreness, spasms and pain, stiffness and even arthritis. It is not recommended for sprains, pulled muscles or bruises.
Cold therapy (reusable flexible gel pack, bag of ice, bag of frozen vegetables)
- Slows blood flow to area of application
- Eases swelling
- Reduces muscle spasms
- Decreases pain
Cold therapy is suitable for injuries involving inflammation (sprains, tears, pulled muscles, bruises) and headaches.
Whether you use hot or cold therapy for your injury, the instructions are the same: apply the compress to the area for 10 to 15 minutes, every 1 to 2 hours for the first 2 days.
Orthopedic braces, a great idea!
Rigid and semi-rigid braces are designed to support or stabilize joints. When it comes to sports injuries, they can help in two ways:
- Prevention: When engaging in intense sports or work-related activities (e.g.: playing tennis if you are at risk for tennis elbow or to protect your back when moving furniture).
- Rehabilitation: Following an acute injury, such as a sprain.
Braces come in all varieties. Some have cotton, nylon or lycra cuffs or gel heels and cushions, others are designed to improve foot comfort for conditions such as plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendinitis or heel spurs.
If you have experienced a sports or work-related injury, your family pharmacist can give you valuable advice on first aid care. He or she can also recommend the right orthopedic devices and show you how to properly adjust and use them or, depending on the severity of your injury, refer you to a doctor.