The beginning of the school year is an exciting time. There are new classes, visits with friends you’ve not seen all summer, and upcoming sports seasons to enjoy! But rather quickly, the school year can become pretty stressful with sports activities, part-time jobs, cramming for exams, and all sorts of extra-curricular activities.
With all of your additional obligations, the last thing you need during this time is to become ill or sustain an injury. According to IBJI’s Richard Sherman, MD, a board-certified orthopedic surgeon fellowship-trained in Sports Medicine, the two most common back-to-school injuries seen by our physicians are muscle strains from inflexibility and overuse injuries from participating in an activity without adequately strengthening the muscles necessary for that particular sport.
Here are a few ways you can avoid those mishaps and make the most out of your school year:
1. Keep Your Body Heated
Whether it is the biggest game of the year or just another practice on Tuesday, it is crucial for athletes to get their bodies warmed up before playing any sport. The same thing goes for gym class.
Not stretching before physical activity can increase your risk of a sports injury. But when your ligaments are warmed up and used to activity, you are less likely to experience an injury. In addition, warming up helps you move with more dexterity and speed.
When you warm up, you are waking your body up to the activity it will be doing, increasing blood flow to the muscles that will be working. Think of your body like a machine, it will do the work for you, but you need to turn it on!
Dr. Sherman recommends stretching the muscles that will be used for your sport. For example, if you plan to participate in a running sport, then you should stretch your hamstrings, quadriceps and calf muscles. Likewise, if a sport involves throwing or use of a racquet, then stretch the muscles surrounding the shoulder girdle.
More specifically, Dr. Sherman advises three sets of ten exercises in which the appropriate muscle is in a stretched position for ten seconds.
For a general warm-up that will serve most athletic pursuits, he suggests a light jog around the field or the track to loosen up the muscles, followed by stretching the arms forward across the body and behind the back ten times, each time holding the stretch for ten seconds.
2. Fitness Is Key
Consistency should always be a goal, no matter what you’re working towards. It will help you in school, in social situations, and in building your work ethic.
When you are playing sports at a high intensity, you need to keep your strength and conditioning up every day. You’ll often hear coaches say that you should play harder in practice than you do in the game, and there is solid reasoning behind that.
Without a consistent workout regimen, your body is going to have a difficult time keeping up with longer duration and higher intensity physical activity. If you play a fall sport and did not keep up with your exercise routine during the summer, it’s important that you take the time to gradually build yourself up. Don’t throw around weights you know are too heavy for you or push yourself too hard, you may wind up with a serious injury. That is not to say that you shouldn’t push yourself to be the best you can be, but know your limits and what you can handle.
3. A Well Balanced Diet
Did you know that drinking a full cold glass of water in the morning is actually the most effective way of waking yourself up? Even better than coffee! And drinking water throughout the day keeps your body hydrated and your blood flowing.
Eating the right foods and vitamins will also allow you to be awake and alert throughout the day. You won’t experience that after-lunch fatigue or lack of energy during practice after school. It is hard to see how replacing those chips for fruit can change the entirety of your body chemistry, but it really does make a big difference.
All it takes is one right decision in the morning, which will then help you make healthier choices throughout the rest of your day. Instead of artificial cereal, try some oatmeal or a bowl of fruit. Your body will thank you by increasing your performance levels!
If you have suffered from a sports injury or any orthopedic injury, our expert physicians at Illinois Bone & Joint Institute can help you get back on your feet. Our team is dedicated to restoring your quality of life and keeping you in top condition going forward! For more information on how we can help or to schedule your appointment, please do not hesitate to contact us today.