I’m cool with sitting on the bench in a cast all season. Said no athlete, ever.
Sometimes injury is unavoidable, thanks to the perfect combination of circumstances or an opposing player’s blunders. But that doesn’t mean you’re off the hook. Many athletes have settled into bad habits that can easily lead to a season-ending injury. Our Asheville sports injury doctors see this all too often in patients of all ages and sports backgrounds.
The good news about bad habits is that they can be broken! If you’re guilty of any of the following, make it your goal to correct your behavior and enjoy more time on the field, court or trail.
Reason #1. You skip your warm-up
For a time-crunched athlete, it can be tempting to skip the ho-hum warm-up to get more “meat” into your workout time. However, a few minutes spent warming up can save you months of downtime. A warm-up activates your muscles, loosens your joints, and primes the neuromuscular pathways to perform your sport with proper attention and technique.
Warming up activates your muscles, loosens joints, and primes neuromuscular pathways—benefits which reduce risk and far outweigh any training time lost.
Break the habit. It’s better to cut your main workout 10 minutes short in favor of a proper warm-up. The benefit of reducing injury risk will far outweigh any training time lost.
Specific elements of your warm-up will vary depend on your sport, but should include:
- Light aerobic activity to increase blood flow to the muscles, followed by
- Gentle, sports-specific stretching to increase flexibility
- Easy drills to simulate motions used in your sport and help prepare for your main workout
If you need help designing a safe, constructive warm-up, considering hiring a coach or consulting with a sports medicine specialist.
Reason #2: Your protective gear is collecting dust…or did you ever have any?
Nothing makes us cringe more than seeing a patient land in our office because they were skating without wristguards or playing soccer in flip-flops. Many people forgo protective gear either because they A) never wore it as a kid and don’t think it’s necessary, or B) think it looks goofy. However, there’s nothing “uncool” about protective gear—not being able to hold a fork for several months or suffering traumatic brain injury because you weren’t wearing your gear is what’s really uncool.
Break the habit: Get protective gear and wear it! If you don’t do it for yourself, do it to set a good example for your kids—they’re much more likely to listen to your tips for being safe while playing sports if you practice what you preach. Not sure what you need for your sport? Talk to a knowledgeable coach, trainer, or sports doctor.
Reason #3: You’re riding the same bike tires you had when you set up your MySpace page.
You wouldn’t drive through a snowstorm on bald tires—it’s too risky. Then why are you okay with riding on bald, cracked tires or running in old, worn out shoes? Worn out sports gear—whether it’s a piece of equipment or protective gear—can lead to overuse injuries at best, and in many cases presents a real risk to your safety.
Break the habit: We know, gear isn’t cheap, but it’s cheaper than a visit to the ER! Plus, investing in a fresh pair of shoes, a new set of tires, or knee pads with fresh foam will make your sport much more enjoyable. If you’re unsure whether your gear is too far gone, stop into one of our great local sports-specific shops and ask the staff to offer their opinion.
Reason #4: You’re trying to win Strava.
Social fitness apps like Strava and Endomondo are handy tools for tracking your progress, and the virtual “competition” can be a great motivator to push yourself and become fitter. However, if you’ve been putting in mega-miles in attempt to have the fastest climb or highest weekly total among your circle, you’re setting yourself up for an overuse injury.
Break the habit: Gradual increases are best. One tried-and-true method that experienced runners and other endurance athletes use to reduce sports injury risk is the 10% rule—never increase your mileage or total training time by more than 10% per week. This gradual increase in volume allows your joints, muscles and bones to adapt to the stresses of training without becoming overwhelmed, so you get stronger, not injured.
Reason #5: You have sloppy technique.
Does your left shoulder kill you if you swim more than 30 minutes? Is tennis elbow keeping you out of yet another round robin? Poor technique may be to blame. If you’re self-coached, as many adult athletes are, it’s easy for your technique to fall off—if you ever learned it well in the first place. However, with sports that require specific, repetitive movements, even slight faults in technique can quickly add up to injury.
Break the habit: If you’re suffering from recurrent tendinitis, joint pain or other overuse injuries, invest in a few sessions with an experienced sports coach or physical therapist. And no, Coach YouTube isn’t a substitute for a real, knowledgeable trainer who can look at your specific habits and help you understand how to improve.
Already injured? We can help you get back faster.
If you’re reading this post with an ice pack on your knee, we’re here to help. You can trust our experienced, fellowship-trained sports medicine physicians to make a swift, accurate diagnosis and provide safe, effective treatment options to help you heal as quickly as possible and reduce your sports injury risk in the future. Call 828-253-7521 or contact us online today.