6 Tips to Help Avoid Sports Injuries

Whether you play your sport just for fun or as part of a competitive team, sitting on the sidelines with an injury can be devastating. Sometimes, an injury is inevitable — a tackle takes you down or you experience a hard fall. But, many injuries may be prevented with a few precautions, proper training, and awareness. Follow these tips to help you avoid a sports injury that takes you out of the game.

1. Warm up to play

You may be eager to get out on the field or hit the track, but not warming up is a big mistake. A warmup increases circulation, improves your reaction time, revs your metabolism, enhances your range of motion, and improves muscle pliability. Spend 10-15 minutes doing easy cardio activity, such as a brisk walk or a few jumping jacks, as well as dynamic movements that engage the same joints you’ll use during play. Arm and ankle circles, lunges, leg swings, knee bends, and torso twists are examples.

2. Wear the right equipment

If your sport requires you to wear a helmet, a mouthguard, or protective eyewear, you have no excuse to play without them. The proper shoes also make a big difference in how you perform and in preventing foot and toe injuries and pain. Even if you do wear all the protective equipment, don’t be reckless, either. You can’t assume the gear will save you if you take extreme risks or are exceptionally careless.

3. Rest

You love your sport and want to play as often as possible to improve your game. However, rest is essential to a well-functioning, healthy body. Take at least one full day off each week and at least one full month off from your particular sport each year. That doesn’t mean you can’t be active; just add some variety and reduce your intensity. For example, if you’re a runner, take up cycling and swimming in your off-month.

4. Strengthen and stretch

Condition your body for the sport you play. Strengthen the appropriate muscles for your sport with weight training and calisthenics when you’re not on the field. Never expect your sport to get you into shape to play. Do the work in training and at practice to adequately prepare for game time. Stretching is also important. It optimizes your range of motion, assists your muscles in recovering from hard work, and prevents extremely tight muscles from causing an injury. Spend a few minutes after practice and games holding stretches for all your major muscle groups.

5. Do not play through pain

The pressure and drive to play can be overwhelming. Don’t let it seduce you to ignore pain. Many times, sitting out one game due to nagging, but not dire, pain can save you a more serious injury that could sideline you for weeks.

6. Hydrate and eat right

Adequate hydration is important to optimal performance. It’s especially important in hot and humid conditions to prevent heat illness. Fuel your body before practice and game time so you have energy to focus and perform well. The quality of your diet all day long matters, too. Eat mostly fresh vegetables and fruit, lean proteins, whole grains, and healthy fats to obtain all the nutrients you need for strong muscles and bones that are resistant to injury.

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