As the fall sports season approaches, it’s important to not only understand the risk of injuries associated with your sport, but also how to protect yourself against them. OAM sports medicine specialist, Dr. Thomas Matelic, discusses common sports injuries and provides a few prevention tips for a safe, successful season. In football and soccer, injuries to the lower extremity are frequent. The knee and ankle are especially vulnerable due to the running, cutting, and quick start/stop nature of the game. In overhead sports — like volleyball, tennis, and baseball — injuries commonly occur to the elbow and shoulder. This is due to improper mechanics and overuse. Like football and soccer, the knee and ankle are also prime targets for volleyball injuries. Fortunately, most knee and ankle injuries are simple sprains and strains. With a little rest and rehab, these injuries often heal quickly. Unfortunately, more severe injuries also occur, such as ACL tears. In those cases, surgical reconstruction — and often 6+ months of recovery — are required. Although golf is considered one of the safer sports, you do need to be conscious of the lower back. During a golf swing, excessive twisting and torque is put on the body and can result in injury. Many of these injuries are preventable. Here are five basic steps to keep in mind:

  1. Pre-season conditioning – By strengthening your muscles, bones, and joints before the season starts, your body will be prepared for the stress of the sport. In football, lift weights. In overhead throwing sports, strengthen your rotator cuff. In golf, strengthen your back and core. Also, maintain a balanced diet to give your body the calories and nutrients it needs to keep the machine moving.
  2. Proper fitting equipment – Many injuries can be prevented by wearing appropriate protective equipment. For example, wear proper mouth guards, shoulder pads and helmets in football; shin guards in soccer. Also, make sure to have your equipment fitted correctly by a coach, trainer or equipment manager.
  3. Proper warm up – Static stretching, and the risks and benefits, is a debated topic in sports medicine today. But there is no doubt that dynamic stretching exercises can prevent sprains and strains, and even improve your performance. Dynamic exercises recreate the motions you will do in competition, preparing your body to perform better by: warming up muscles, making joints more flexible, and stimulating the nervous system. This is true in all sports, including golf.
  4. Know and follow the rules – Sport rules are made to make the game fun and keep the players safe. For example, clipping an opponent has been eliminated from football to protect against knee injuries. Also, spearing with the top of your helmet is a penalty, because it can result in concussions and neck injuries. Follow the rules to stay on the field and in the game.
  5. Don’t overdo it – Stress fractures, and many other injuries, are a result of overuse. Also, many injuries occur later in practices and games when fatigue sets in. At that point, you have a harder time protecting yourself. Listen to your body, and take a breather if you need it.

OAM is the chosen sports medicine provider for local high schools, colleges and professional athletes, including the Grand Rapids Griffins and Cornerstone University.