Your “Pre-Season” Guide to Preventing Sports Injuries

If you’ve been leading toward becoming more active in recent months, you’re far from alone. Perhaps the start of a new sports season has inspired you, or you’re just looking for a new reason to get out of the house!  

But whether you are just starting up a new routine or have been pursuing workout goals for some time now, it pays to have a good plan. Just like the pros engage in training and pre-season exercises, taking the right approach to your goals will help prepare your body for motion – and reduce your risk of sports injuries.

The feet and ankles are particularly susceptible to painful problems, simply from the forces they have to endure as you run, jump, pivot, and juke. A foot or ankle injury can grind active ambitions to a halt very quickly, and we’d rather see you moving as much as you can. It’s not only good for your feet, but the rest of your body and mind, too!

Here is some sound advice to consider before you begin any kind of sport or workout routine.

Make Sure You Have the Right Shoes

It can be very tempting to head out and start hitting the field or pavement in any old pair of sneakers, especially if you’re not yet sure you will stay committed to the activity in question. Continue using the wrong footwear for the job, however, and you may just find yourself abandoning that commitment earlier than you expect.

Sport-specific shoes are not a gimmick. Different activities place different demands on the feet and ankles, from repetitive impacts against the ground to quick side-to-side movements or pivots. Shoes made for specific sports and activities take these demands into mind by design, adding more support, cushioning, and stability where it tends to be needed.

A good shoe will fit the demands of your activity, the needs of your feet, and not be worn down to the point of being ineffective. A trained sporting goods associate can help you find your best shoe for running, basketball, tennis, or other pursuits.

Warm Up Before You Go

There’s a very good reason you always see pros warming up before they head into a competition, and it’s very important that you do, too.

A primary cause of many sports injuries is the body not being properly prepared for the forces it is about to endure. Taking off from a “cold” start can overly strain your muscles and other soft tissues, leading to trouble.

Taking some time to warm up before heading into your main event will help your body acclimate to the upcoming demands. Focus on “dynamic” forms of stretching. In other words, focus on stretches and mild exercises that keep you moving instead of holding still. Good examples include light jogging, walking lunges, and knee raises.

Your warmups should always include the areas of your body that will be most active during your workout, as well as areas that might be at higher risk of injury (for example, focus on your calf muscles if you have tight calves or a tight Achilles tendon).

Pace Yourself Wisely

Even when you warm up well, you can still experience an injury if you push your body too hard, too quickly. Both beginners and veterans are at risk!

Our bodies are designed to build strength and endurance over time. When we challenge our bodies through exercise, they break down on a cellular level. When we rest, it provides an opportunity for our bodies to build back stronger and more capable of meeting previous demands. That’s fitness.

However, if you overload your body – either by pushing too hard all at once or not providing enough time for rest – then breakdown can exceed recovery. Injuries such as Achilles tendinitis, plantar fasciitis, and stress fractures can result this way.

One of the best things you can do for your body is be patient with it. When trying something new (and ideally after discussing it with us or your primary care physician), take the time to ease your body into the activity. Start a bit slower than you think you need to, and gradually ramp up your intensity.

What does an intensity increase look like? Usually, this is no more than a 10 percent increase in time, weight, or distance per week. This won’t be the case for everyone, though! If your weekly increase feels like too much, never be hesitant to dial it back some more. It will always be better to build up slowly and keep moving than for an injury to sideline you for a length of time. 

Take Care of Any Problems or Concerns Early!

Persistent foot or ankle discomfort is never something to ignore. Such problems rarely go away on their own. On the contrary, they only tend to get worse until it’s impossible to ignore them any further – and by then, you have much more damage to deal with than you started with.

We understand that you want to keep moving, and we want you to as well! When you come to see us, we will get to the root of your condition and recommend the best treatment approach to get you back to full action as soon as possible. We even have advanced treatments such as laser therapy to help accelerate recovery times.

Call our Palm Desert office at (760) 568-0108 to schedule an appointment. If you prefer to contact us electronically, fill out our online contact form and a member of our staff will reach out to you during our standard office hours.

 

Dr. Harvey Danciger
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Dr. Harvey Danciger is a podiatrist and foot surgeon in Palm Desert, CA specializing in the foot and ankle
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