Young physician ticking the sports injury RICE checklistInjuries are an unavoidable result of most sports and fitness programs. From sprains to pulls and strains to concussions, weekend warriors and professional alike are at risk. There are precautions you can take before and after an injury to minimize damage.

Before You Suffer an Injury

  • Get a once over from your healthcare provider to be sure you are physically able to take on your chosen fitness task.
  • Assemble appropriate equipment. Helmets, shin guards, mouth guards and supportive shoes can protect you from common sports injuries.
  • Get plenty of rest. Fatigue can lead to poor form, which is often a cause of sports injuries, particularly those impacting the knees, hips and back.
  • Cross train to reduce and prevent overuse injuries. That means if you run three days consider swimming or yoga on one or two days.
  • Ask for instruction. Especially if you are new to a class, activity or piece of equipment, learn to use it the right way to avoid injury. Likewise if you are new to fitness, go easy until you feel comfortable, build strength and endurance.

If You are Injured

The saying no pain, no gain is not a useful mantra if you intend to continue your workout regimen in the long term. In fact, if you have pains that you ignore you are almost certainly preventing any future gains. With time, untreated injuries can reduce performance, sidelining or do permanent damage. We have only to think of the battle between the NFL and its players over the problem of concussions for proof of this. In our own lives, we may remember a time we pushed too hard or too fast and ended up so hurt that we retired to the couch instead of staying active. Stay in the game with these tips:

  • Get a coach or exercise physiologist to watch you in action. The feedback provided can help you build strength and rebuild after an injury.
  • Pay attention to ongoing pain. If after you have rested the injured muscle, applied ice or downed some ibuprofen you still feel discomfort, get help.
  • Consider an orthopedist to help you work through an injury.
  • If you experience dizziness, blurred vision, ringing in your ears or anything else unusual, stop what you are doing and consult your healthcare provider immediately.
  • Uses braces and wraps to support injuries.
  • Adjust your workout plan and intensity as you recover.
  • Get the green light from your physician before returning to your previous level of activity.

Injuries are inevitable, but they need not be permanent. Pay attention to your body when it sends you a message that it needs to slow down or take a break. A time out is nothing to be ashamed of; in fact it may be just what the doctor ordered to help you stay in the fitness game.