Hurray! Summer is on the way and many people are already excited and gearing up for a wonderful season to play outdoor games and activities this season. We Canadians are fond of golf, tennis, soccer, mountain hiking, cycling and running. As physiotherapists, we commonly see many patients in our clinical practice who suffer from musculoskeletal injuries caused sports. Many factors are responsible for sports injuries, some of which include faulty posture and altered body mechanics, incorrect play technique, lack of appropriate warm-up and cool down before and after game, inappropriate footwear, lack of hydration, poor fitness and muscle imbalance. The susceptibility to musculoskeletal injuries resulting from sports and outdoor activities increases with increasing age, presence of arthritis in back, hip, knee and shoulders, decreased joint mobility, and poor muscle flexibility and strength.
Here are some tips and advice, that if you follow, will minimise the risk of getting injuries while you play outdoor games or activities of your choice.
- Learn few basics on particular sports and outdoor activities you want to pursue to get familiar with equipment needed for sports or activities, correct play technique etc.
- See a registered physiotherapist for a conditioning evaluation: it is a good idea to have an assessment from the physiotherapist on posture and body mechanics, joint mobility, muscle flexibility and strength. This preventive checkup is highly recommended if you are new to game/outdoor activity or older or already suffering from arthritis, joint or muscle pain or recovering from musculoskeletal injuries and wish to return to sports/outdoor activities you like. Based on individual’s assessment, needs and expectations, the physiotherapist will design a mobility, flexibility and strength training program and educate you about activity or technique modifications as a part of pre-game preparation.
- Wear appropriate footwear: choose comfortable, well-fitting shoes with enough room around bony prominence, especially in the toe box. Never buy tight shoes hoping they will stretch. To get the correct size, it’s a good idea to buy new shoes in the evening as feet usually swell up at the end of the day. Wear shoes that can be adjusted with laces, buckles, or velcro.
- Warm-up and cool down: Do 5-10 minutes of proper warm up and cool down before and after game or activity. This increases blood circulation in muscles and prepares working muscles to cope with increased stress and strain during high intensity game/activity, decreases post exercise muscle soreness and prevents post activity swelling in your feet. You can include light stretches, gentle active free movements and strength exercise with light weights. Talk to your physiotherapist to find out what type of exercises you should include in warm-up and cool down period pertaining to particular sports and activity you wish to pursue.
- Stay hydrated: Research suggests that lack of hydration during sports or high intensity activity, especially in hot and dry weather, increases risk of cramping in muscles. It is imperative to stay hydrated throughout the game and any outdoor activity to prevent muscle injury.