We all know how important exercise and physical activity are to good health. But if you’re an active athlete looking to up your game, it’s even more important to add specialized sports medicine care to your team. Think injury prevention, performance training … and a whole lot more.
Here are 7 reasons sports medicine is essential for active athletes.
- Specialization: Unlike general practitioners or ER docs, sports medicine professionals are specially trained to diagnose and treat athletic injuries – especially when it comes to concussions and repetitive motion injuries.
- Rehabilitation: Most sports injuries will require a rehabilitation period with or without physical therapy. This process is vital to recovery, and should never be left to chance.
- Prevention: Sports medicine professionals understand how athletes practice and play, and can offer expert advice on preventing injuries and avoiding re-injury.
- Personalization: It’s all about you! Sports medicine professionals – like our top-notch physical therapy team – can evaluate your anatomical strengths and weaknesses to make personal recommendations for everything from running shoes to training regimens.
- Strength & Mobility: A quality sports medicine program will help athletes focus on individual strength, speed, mobility and agility. Learn more about OI Performance in Sioux Falls.
- “Return to Play” Decisions: If there’s anything a sidelined athlete thinks about, it’s “When do I get back in the game.” Trained sports medicine professionals can help you make this all-important decision at the right time, to reduce the risk or re-injury.
- Teamwork: Active athletes need a sports medicine specialty team that works together – from physical therapists and athletic trainers to board-certified, orthopedic surgeons.
These days, student athletes start playing younger and younger. Wondering if yours needs to be seen for an ache or pain? Read the 4 Reasons a Walk-In Physician is Beneficial for Your Student Athlete.
From pulled muscles and ankle sprains to knee, hip and shoulder pain—it’s no secret that when we work out we put ourselves at greater risk for strains, sprains and more. We asked the experts (our highly-trained Orthopedic Institute physicians) for their top tips on staying healthy while staying active.
Check out these top 5 orthopedic tips for athletes of all ages and skill levels.
1. Warm up and cool down
Whether you’re part of a competitive team or a “weekend warrior,” warming up your body prepares your cardiovascular system for activity and increases blood flow to your muscles. Cooling down after your workout allows for gradual recovery of both your heart rate and blood pressure. Both are important parts of exercising injury-free. Proper warm-ups and stretches specific to your sport can also help prevent painful pulled muscles.
2. Invest in the right equipment
No matter the sport or the amount of activity, investing in the proper shoes and equipment can help prevent injury along the way—especially when it comes to arch and heel support. Not sure what you need? Consider talking to a physical therapist, or athletic trainer. You might even benefit from inserts in your athletic shoes, which can absorb energy and help correct alignment. Our pedorthist can help with all your insert needs. Do a lot of running? Check out our post on how to find the perfect running shoe.
3. Use proper technique
From golfing, hiking and weight lifting to tennis, running, swimming and everything in between—every athletic activity involves technique. If you’re not actively working with coaches as part of your training, take time to learn the correct techniques associated with your sport or workout routine. For example, learning how to do the lunge correctly can protect your knees.
4. Switch up your routine
Not only does this beat workout boredom and keep you excited about athletic activity, it is essential for avoiding overuse injuries. By mixing up your activities, you give those overused muscles, joints and ligaments a chance to rest and recover before putting them into action again. Some great ways to give your joints a rest include elliptical machines, swimming, biking or yoga. Looking for new ideas? Check out these five unique ways to exercise outdoors this spring.
5. Don’t overdo it
You’ve heard the phrase, “listen to our body.” It’s one of the best things you can do to avoid a sports-related injury. When you begin a new sport or workout routine you’ve never tried before, begin slowly and steadily to avoid pulling or straining muscles. Even if you have been training hard, never let your competitive urges push you to strain or compromise your technique in an attempt to do more. Injury can often be the result.
Most anyone who’s ever played with, coached or cheered for a sports team knows the drill—sports injuries happen in the blink of an eye. A torn ACL, ripped rotator cuff, strained Achilles tendon and any number of other strains, sprains and breaks can keep you sidelined for weeks and months. So can recovering from many types of extremity surgery, no matter our age or mobility level. Now there’s a new option to help everyone recover faster.
Learn more about Blood Flow Restriction Therapy and how it’s safely helping patients of all ages, backgrounds and mobility levels.
What is BFR?
Blood flow restriction (BFR) training is a training strategy involving the use of an occlusion cuff that is placed around a limb during supervised exercise. This specialized tourniquet system is applied close to the center of your body and positioned for the targeted area to be trained. At Orthopedic Institute, our trainers use a “B-Strong” system of 6 difference cuff sizes.
Below is an example of a lower extremity cuff in action with a patient.
The cuff is inflated to a personalized/specific pressure to reduce blood flow to the exercising arm or leg. This creates a hypoxic (low oxygen) environment within the targeted muscle, allowing low-load exercise to effectively increase muscle strength and size.
Who could benefit from BFR?
- Injured athletes returning to play after surgery or following treatment – including ACL reconstruction, Achilles tendon repairs, rotator cuff repairs, muscle strains and fractures.
- Post-operative patients recovering from knee reconstruction, joint replacement surgery or severe breaks as the result of accidents or injuries.
- Non-weight bearing (NWB) patients who need to minimize their loss of strength and muscle mass while waiting to return to normal activity.
Blood Flow Restriction is recognized as a safe and effective tool for rehabilitation by the American College of Sports Medicine. It should always be conducted with the supervision of a trained professional and is not a replacement for high-intensity resistance training for athletes, especially in the off season.
Our arms and shoulders assist us with almost all of our daily activities, so it’s easy to see why strong shoulder muscles are so important! Weak shoulders can increase your risk for injury at the gym or going about your day lifting kids, household items, grocery bags and more. Poor posture can also lead to neck and back pain.
Don’t let back pain and decreased range of motion sneak up on you. Try these three, easy-to-do shoulder and spine exercises at home. No equipment necessary.
1. Wall Angels
This upper-body mobility exercise not only strengthens the muscles responsible for holding your shoulders back (and improving your posture), it can also help maintain full range of motion. Our physical therapists recommend wall angels for everything from shoulder injury rehabilitation to improving minor back and neck pain.
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, 6-12 inches away from the wall, and your back against the wall. Your arms should be resting at your sides.
- Bend your elbows 90 degrees and rotate your arms so that your shoulders, arms and back of your hands are touching the wall in a “hands up” position.
- Slowly move your arms up and over your head to form a wide “V” while maintaining contact between your elbows, hands and the wall. Only go as high as you can to keep the backs of your hands and elbows in constant contact with the wall.
- Bend your elbows and lower your arms back to the starting positions by actively pulling your shoulder blades down.
- Raise and lower your arms like this for two sets of 15 reps. You should feel your muscles working between your shoulder blades.
2. Quadruped Scapular Retraction
Never heard of “scapular retraction?” Essentially, it’s pulling your shoulder blades (scapulae) back to improve posture and strengthen your shoulders. Modern life, and all of our sitting and/or hunching over computers and smartphones, has made us all much more likely to slump our shoulders.
- Start on all fours with your wrists stacked directly under your shoulders, and your knees stacked directly under your hips. This creates a “neutral” spine.
- Push into the ground, round your back slightly, and actively pull your shoulder blades together. Try to keep your shoulders relaxed and away from your ears.
- Repeat 10-12 times for 1-2 sets.
3. Lateral Arm Raise
This simple exercise can be done while standing or sitting, and with or without hand weights. You will strengthen your lateral deltoid muscles on the side of your shoulders, as well as the muscles in your upper back.
- Stand straight with your feet hip distance apart and your arms down at your sides.
- With or without weights, raise both arms to the side with palms facing down until they are at shoulder level and parallel to the floor.
- Hold the position for one second and slowly lower your arms.
- Repeat for two sets of 10-12 reps.