The world is starting to slowly but surely re-open in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, country by country, state by state, county by county. You have been cooped up for months on end, living a fairly sedentary lifestyle, and are anxious to get back to your activities and to a normal swing of life. Although the world is slowly re-opening, it seems as if many are not taking the same gradual approach to their return to sports and activity. Many parents are shipping their kids right over to their first practice, and coaches are up against a time frame to get athletes ready for a season that will be shortened and consolidated. Many athletes or “weekend warriors” are jumping right back to their activity/gym/sport and are starting out at a level they left off prior to the closing of their activity. And that can lead to a sports injury.
Sports injury occurs via three methods:
1. Direct Impact- Such as trauma, which is when two or more entities come into contact and cause injury.
2. Overuse- by doing “too much,” you are not allowing your body to actively heal and recover after activity, which predisposes you to injury.
3. Application of a force that is greater than the body can withstand- that is when the body can’t sustain the activity that you are trying to perform.
Out of those three methods of sports injury described above, the risk for 2 out of the 3 can be lowered by an appropriate approach to return to sports. Direct impact can only be prevented by avoiding the sport, or by chance. However, preventing overuse and building up strength so the body can withstand the demands of a force associated with the activity are two methods that can help prevent injury. Injury prevention is being heavily researched, as we all try to find ways to avoid a set back that further limits our capabilities.
So what can you do to prevent injury?
· If you are playing an organized sport, assure that the team/coach/trainers have an appropriate plan to safely return you and your teammates to game-ready shape.
- Parents, also look into this if your child is returning to a sport this summer.
· Do not hop right back into the level you were at before the world flipped on its head!
· If you are a weight lifter/runner/cyclist, start lighter and build-up!
· Focus on repetition in the gym to reinforce “muscle memory” and redevelop those neural connections between mind and body.
· Incorporate a diverse program of strengthening, cardio, and stretching.
· Don’t sacrifice smaller muscle groups for the sake of getting right back to exercising larger muscle groups.
· Get good sleep- sleep is the time your body recovers!
· Eat healthy, nutritious foods to help you recover.
· Take 1-2 “active” rest days per week- on these days, do not be completely sedentary, but engage in a lighter activity, such as walking.
· Listen to your body! If something doesn’t feel right, do not neglect it. The “No pain, no gain” method does not apply when building-up for sports/activity.
We all are in a rush to get back to everything all at once, but do not sacrifice your well-being for the sake of getting back to your sport. Just think… If you get injured by coming back to sports to soon, you have just set yourself up for a longer continued time staying at home. No one wants that!
You may be thinking how you will be able to do this, what program should you be doing, how can you maximize your build-up to sport in as little time as possible, and how do you prevent injury. My recommendation? Consult with an athletic trainer, personal trainer, and/or physical therapist prior to returning to your activity to see what program best suits you.
To learn more valuable information and tips on exercise and physical therapy, follow VTP’s blog, and also enjoy a visit to VTP’s founding partner, Dr. Justin Frick, PT, DPT, COQS’s professional blog!