August 16, 2004
The Olympics are here!
"As the summer Olympics
get underway, many of us will be inspired to run, jump, bike and
swim just like our Olympic heroes. But some weekend athletes can
exercise themselves into sports-related injuries. Dr. Ed Wojtys,
sports medicine director of MedSport at the University of Michigan
Health System, offers advice to wanna-be Olympians and weekend
athletes. He notes there is always an increase in sports activities--and
subsequent sports injuries--in the summer, but the Olympics are
a stimulus for many to relive athletic careers or act out future
aspirations, leading people of all ages to push beyond their normal
physical limits. 'The most common sports-related injuries we see
are muscle strains, ligament sprains or early osteoarthritis aggravated
by injuries,' says Wojtys. 'We consider all of these to be overuse-related
Exercise is good.
The renewed interest in sports that the Olympics brings is good.
The desire that motivates athletes to do their best is good.
"People who haven't
been exercising as much as they'd like can still get some good
exercise this summer while avoiding overuse injuries. Keep in
mind your age and level of conditioning so that you are realistic
about what you are capable of doing, Wojtys cautions."
Whether an athlete is
25 years-old and has been training for two decades, 15 years-old
and has just begun a high school sports, or 5 years-old and already
dreaming of breaking the new records just set by Michael Phelps,
all athletes--and prospective athletes--need to remember that
the most enjoyable athletic careers are those that are not plagued
"The first rule
here is the most important one: the best way to deal with sports
injuries is to prevent them. Prevention includes knowing the rules
of the game you're playing, using the proper equipment, and playing
Many injuries are avoidable.
from sports and recreational activities are not uncommon, getting
hurt doesn't have to happen. For teens, the best way to ensure
a long and injury-free athletic career is to play it safe from
the start. Sports injury prevention can help to keep everyone
on the court or playing field. Read on to learn the basics of
sports and exercise safety....
"Did you know that
playing tennis with a badly strung (too loose or too tight) racquet
while wearing worn-out shoes can be just as dangerous as playing
football without shoulder pads? Using the wrong - or improperly
fitted - equipment is a major reason why teens get injured."
Think about your sport.
Think about the equipment specific to your sport. What do you
need to do to ensure that the equipment you are using is at its
best? Think about your body from head to toe. What do you need
to do to ensure that your body will be well protected, yet able
to move well and play well with the other athletes?
"Start with helmets:
they are important for sports such as football, hockey, baseball,
softball, biking, skateboarding, and in-line skating, to name
just a few....
Eye protection also is a must for many sports... Mouth guards
can protect your mouth, teeth, and tongue...
Wrist, knee, and elbow guards are important gear, too... Some
guys may also need to wear a protective cup...
And last but not least, the right footwear can keep you from tripping
"Not only is the
right kind of equipment important, so is the right fit. If you
don't know if your equipment fits properly, check with a parent,
coach, or gym teacher to make sure you have the right size and
that you're wearing it correctly. Many sporting goods stores can
also help you find the right fit. The bottom line: wearing the
right equipment with the right fit dramatically decreases your
chances of getting hurt."
The American Academy
of Orthopaedic Surgeons and the American Association of Orthopaedic
Surgeons offer advice for injury prevention at:
(Scroll down to find information specific to your sport, or area
You have read all the
articles. You have the right equipment. You have the right protective
gear. You play safely. While you can greatly reduce your risk
of injury, there is still the chance that you might get hurt...
are on the rise in U.S. children and teen-agers. Each year more
than 3.5 million sports-related injuries requiring medical treatment
occur in children under age 15. Today, as more and more children
and adolescents participate in the same sport year-round, many
young athletes are developing overuse injuries. In fact, overuse
is responsible for about half of the sports injuries that happen
to middle school and high school students. Overuse injuries usually
occur over time with prolonged, repeated motion or impact. They
range from chronic muscle strains and tendinitis to stress fractures
(tiny cracks in the bone). 'Pediatricians certainly are seeing
overuse injuries more often,' says Douglas Gregory, M.D., FAAP,
a pediatrician specializing in sports medicine. As reasons for
the increase, Dr. Gregory cites more children playing competitive
and year-round sports as well as training too intensely."
You know that you have
to train hard to be your best, and nobody wants to be a wimp about
an injury, especially if there is a big game or an important meet
coming up, right?
also blames insufficient rest after an injury for some overuse
injuries. 'It's not uncommon for an injured child or teenager
to resume sports activity too soon, because the coach says, 'Play
through your pain."' It is important to take care of injuries
as soon as they happen. A physician should evaluate any sports
injury, recommends Dr. Gregory. Although overuse injuries are
painful, most improve with rest. 'Ignoring the problem may turn
it into a more serious injury,' he says. 'With proper treatment
and rest, the athlete usually can continue participating through
"Ignoring the problem
may turn it into a more serious injury..."
Just like anyone else,
your body wants you to pay attention to what it is trying to tell
you. It may be trying to tell you that there is an injury that
needs some attention. It may be straining from a heat-related
illness as you continue to work hard in the hot sun. Some days
it may seem easier to ignore the symptoms your body is using to
communicate than to tell your coach and your friends how you are
feeling, but that may not be what's best for you and your health.
sports in the heat requires close monitoring of both body and
weather conditions. Heat injuries are always dangerous and can
be fatal. Children perspire less than adults and require a higher
core body temperature to trigger sweating. Heat-related illnesses
include dehydration (deficit in body fluids), heat exhaustion
(nausea, dizziness, weakness, headache, pale and moist skin, heavy
perspiration, normal or low body temperature, weak pulse, dilated
pupils, disorientation, fainting spells), and heat stroke (headache,
dizziness, confusion, and hot dry skin, possibly leading to vascular
collapse, coma, and death). These injuries can be prevented....
Recognize the dangers of playing in the heat.... Respond quickly
if heat-related injuries occur.... Schedule regular fluid breaks
during practice and games.... Drinking water is the best choice;
others include fruit juices and sports drinks.... Kids need to
drink 8 ounces of fluid every 20 minutes, plus more after playing....
Make player substitutions more frequently in the heat.... Wear
light-colored, 'breathable' clothing, and wide-brimmed hats...
Use misting water sprays on the body to keep cool."
Questions of the Week:
What preventative measures do you need to take in order to reduce
your chances of getting hurt when playing sports, or taking part
in any sort of physical activity? What do you need to know about
the equipment you are using in order to keep it at its best (and
safest)? What signals does your body send to let you know that
you are pushing it too hard? How do you balance the signals that
your body is sending with the pressure you are getting from your
coach and your friends? How can you push yourself to reach your
best, without pushing so hard that you injure yourself and are
unable to know what your potential could have been?
Please email me with any ideas or suggestions.
Note: Due to increasing amounts of SPAM sent to this account, please include "QOW" in the subject line when sending me email.
I look forward to reading
what you have to say.
Health Community Coordinator
Access Excellence @ the National Health Museum