Every year summer brings a passion for outdoor activities. Whether you are young or old, it’s the time of the year when the weather is perfect to indulge in summer sports, from hiking and volleyball to swimming and surfing. Unfortunately, this also means an increase in injuries. While visiting your nearest urgent care center is always advised in the case of an injury, it is important to know how to prevent and treat common sports injuries, to ensure an enjoyable, safe and sporty summer.
- Strains and sprains are the most common kinds of sports injuries. A strain happens when a muscle fiber or tendon is stretched or torn, while a sprain happens when a ligament is stretched or torn. Because almost all outdoor activities involve stress on some kind of muscle, strains and sprains are frequent occurrences in sports. The good news is that they are also easily preventable. Starting with a warm-up instead of diving right into a sport decreases the likelihood of suffering from a strain or sprain. Before you indulge in a potentially fatiguing sport, take five to ten minutes to lightly work the relevant muscle groups.
- Groin pulls are characterized by pain, tenderness or swelling in the groin or inside of the thigh. They are common in sports that require running such as soccer, baseball and hockey. If you have a groin pull, you can ice the tender area for 15 to 30 minutes every few hours to speed up the healing process. A non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug like Advil can help bring down the pain. It is advised not to take part in active sports until the groin pull is healed.
- Running, volleyball and basketball can often result in knee injuries, such as jumper’s knee. According to Melinda Ratini, reducing activities that pressurize the kneecap or upper leg and engaging in low-impact exercise can help relieve knee pain. Working out the quadriceps muscles (the muscle group at the front of your thighs) are a great low-impact exercise.
- Always carry a portable dry ice pack when engaging in activities such as hiking, trekking and backpacking. Most common sports injuries such as ankle and wrist sprains can be alleviated through ice. According to the University of Rochester Medical Centre, ice brings down inflammation, swelling, muscle spasm and pain. It is recommended to use it on the painful area for 15 to 20 minutes every three to four hours, at least during the first 48 hours after the injury.
- Most common sports injuries to the legs, thighs, arms, elbows and wrists can be treated at home, using PRICE therapy. Compress the affected area with an elastic bandage or elevate it above the level of the heart to limit pain and swelling.
- Avoid applying heat to common sports injuries. While heat packs are a good source of comfort for stomachaches and lower back pain, applying them to a sports injury on the knee, thigh or wrist can cause inflammation and worsen swelling.
- Never stress the muscle group you have injured right after the injury. Most mild sports injuries will heal on their own if given rest and care. However, stressing the injured muscle group or limb within a few days after it heals increases the likelihood of re-injuring it. If you are unsure about restarting a sport after an injury, consult your medical provider.
While these preventive and corrective measures can help alleviate common sports injuries, it is important to remember that there can be no substitute for expert medical advice. Even though it is recommended to take an over-the-counter pain reliever to deal with sharp pain, always see a doctor if your bone looks crooked, abnormal, or if the pain does not subside within 4-5 days, despite icing, compression and elevation.