The summer brings a lot of us outside, getting involved in many activities and sports but before you go balls to the wall, consider these tips from Dr. William Levine, chief of sports medicine at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center, on staying injury free this summer:
- Your best bet is to prevent injuries before they happen. First of all, start slow. Don't expect to be in the same playing condition that you ended up in last fall, even if you have been maintaining your fitness level. New activities require muscles and joints to respond in a different way. This may result in minor soreness while your body adjusts. If you push yourself too hard too soon, that minor soreness could turn into something more serious.
- Don't forget to warm up. Although you may feel warm in good weather, you still have to give your muscles a chance to go through the motions and get blood pumping to all the necessary areas. Gentle stretching before finishing your activity will help those hard-working muscles retain and improve flexibility.
- For tennis elbow, runner's knee, and similar injuries, try R.I.C.E. -- rest, ice, compression, and elevation. Rest means that the injured area is not put through any undue strain. When icing a body part, apply the ice in a covering so that it is not in direct contact with the skin. A cotton handkerchief covering the ice is helpful. Ice the affected area several times a day, for about 20 minutes at a time. Compression is applying pressure to the injured area to stop bleeding (if any is occurring) or to reduce swelling. Elevation helps in these respects as well. Compression and elevation are to be used in the case of acute injuries, such as a twisted ankle.
- Take frequent breaks. Even tennis pros rest between sets. Taking a rest doesn't mean that you have to completely stop all activity (although it may be advisable sometimes). Just rest the body parts that are working hard and are susceptible to injury.
- The single most important thing you can do is pay attention to your body. Don't ignore the little aches and pains in the joints and muscles. They are early signals that could help you prevent more serious injuries.
There are three more tips, so