As the calendar shifts from February to March, and while most of the country continues to be blanketed in snow, here in Central Texas the signs of Spring are everywhere. Spring is typically associated with new beginnings, the allure of outdoor adventure, and the return of organized youth sports. However, that increase in activity also brings with it the potential for injury, particularly when the body is not prepared and trained properly. Whether you are a weekend warrior or a parent of the next superstar athlete, here are some things to consider as you prepare for the upcoming season.
Equipment: Now is a great time to take assessment of all of your supplies and to see which items might need to be repaired or replaced before hitting the trails or the playing field. Do your shoes still fit and have good support and tread? Are your gloves/shin guards/bike chains in working order, or do they need some attention or replacement? Starting the spring season with equipment that is in disrepair is one of the quickest ways to put yourself at increased injury risk, allow yourself to develop poor habits, and potentially create compensatory pain.
Train: While it seems like a great idea to use that first gorgeous day to hit the ground running, taking some time to prepare your body and work back toward full throttle is the prudent plan. Take the time now to start a flexibility training program, jog 1 mile instead of 5 that first time out, or work out a throwing program to get your arm healthy and ready before the adrenaline of the season takes over. Overuse injuries are prevalent in the beginning of the outdoor season – often because of a lack of preparation or due to undertaking a greater intensity than the body is currently ready to withstand.
Diversify: One of the best ways to avoid overuse injuries and muscular imbalances is to be active with several different activities. Utilizing the same muscle groups and loading the same joints with repetition of the same activity can lead to higher injury risks. Whether it be shoulder injuries in baseball, ankle/knee sprains in soccer, or low back pain with golfing, repetitive stress can lead to chronic irritation. This year, consider taking up a new activity to balance out the load. You might discover a new and enjoyable hobby in the process.
Warm-Up: Before engaging in vigorous activity, it is important to allow the body time to warm-up. The best way to accomplish this is to take 5-10 minutes to elevate your heart rate. This increases the quantity of blood delivered to your muscles. Avoid static stretching, but do perform dynamic stretching movements such as lunges, jumping jacks, or jogging. Dynamic stretching helps muscles and joints to gradually accommodate and prepare for the increased stress of higher intensity activity and sport.
Stay Hydrated: The heat index and humidity can wreak havoc on the body here in Central Texas. If you are active outdoors, it is essential that you increase your water intake to avoid heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Every year many people are hospitalized for heat related illness caused by improper hydration and/or overexposure to the elements. Educate yourself on the symptoms of heat illness (Fatigue, Muscle Cramping, Disorientation, Nausea) to be able to recognize early signs in yourself and others.
Find a Friend/Join a League: Outdoor activities and sports are a great way to develop friendships and broaden your social circles. Here in the Austin area there is a plethora of groups, rec leagues and clubs to join and be involved in to enhance your sport participation and keep the body healthy and happy.
As you look forward to the outdoor season, if you note that there is any current restriction holding you back from participating at your optimal level, consider an evaluation by your Physical Therapist. Here at Symmetry Physical Therapy we are committed to helping our patients resolve their nagging injuries, optimize their performance and be able to live life to the fullest. Call to schedule a Spring evaluation with us today at 512-339-1500.