About eight million sports injuries are reported among children and adults every year. Suffering from a sports injury can keep you off the field and out of the game in addition to preventing you from working, taking care of your family, and enjoying a pain-free life. A sports injury can even result in a hospital stay or surgery. Orthopedic sports medicine doctors are experts in the diagnosis and management of sports injuries. There are a few things you can do, however, to prevent sports-related injuries. Here are a few tips from the experts!

Sports Injuries

A sports injury can be the result of an accident, impact, overuse, poor training, improper equipment, and lack of conditioning. Many sports injuries occur from strenuous jumping, twisting, or sudden movements of the legs, for example.

The most common sports injuries include:

  • Sprains and strains
  • Knee injuries, such as fractures, dislocations, and muscle tears
  • Swollen muscles
  • Injuries to the Achilles tendon, which is the tough band of tissue that connects your calf to your heel
  • Shinsplints that result in pain along the shinbone
  • Injuries to the rotator cuff, which is a group of muscles that hold your shoulder in place
  • Bone fractures
  • Dislocations

While injuries can happen with every sport, some activities are more likely to cause injuries than others. The highest rates of sports injuries occur in:

  • Basketball
  • Football
  • Soccer
  • Ice hockey
  • Cheerleading
  • Baseball and softball
  • Volleyball

Sports injuries can also occur in other activities, such as:

  • Bicycling
  • Exercise equipment
  • Riding ATVs or motorbikes
  • Skateboarding
  • Swimming
  • Playing on a playground
  • Jumping on a trampoline
  • Fishing
  • Skating
  • Horseback riding

How to Prevent Sports Injuries

While sports injuries are common, they are often avoidable by taking a few precautions. Follow these tips to prevent sports injuries. 

Take Time Off

Take some time off from training or engaging in your primary sport to give your body a break. Plan at least one day off per week and one month off per year. These breaks allow your body to recover from exercise and minor injuries. Taking time off also helps prevent sports injuries associated with overuse, such as tennis elbow, runner’s knee, and shin splints. To maintain your strength and agility without overdoing it, participate in other sports or training during your time off.

Wear Proper Gear

Always wear protective gear appropriate to the sport. Protective gear for basketball includes knee and elbow pads, for example, while safety gear for football includes a helmet, shoulder pads, gloves, knee and thigh pads, a mouthguard, and a jockstrap. Be sure to wear protective gear during practice too, as research shows that more than 63% of all sports injuries occur during practice.

Stop Playing, Practicing, or Training If You’re Experiencing Pain

“Playing through the pain” is never a good idea, as pain is a warning that something is wrong and that it could get worse if you continue. A small stress fracture that could have healed quickly may progress to a more painful and severe fracture that takes longer to heal, for example. As soon as you feel pain, stop what you are doing and take a break. If pain continues for more than a couple of days – or gets worse over time – consult with your sports medicine doctor.

Keep Cool

Physical activity can raise the body’s core temperature and increase the risk for heat illnesses, such as heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke – especially in hot, humid environments. Avoid heat illness by drinking plenty of fluids, taking breaks, and wearing light clothing. Exercise during cooler times of day, such as morning and evening, and avoid physical activity during hot afternoons.

Take Short Breaks During Practice and Play

Resting for just a few minutes during practice and play gives your body time to recover from physical exertion. Taking a short break can also prevent heat illness, which occurs when the body cannot maintain a constant internal temperature.

Play it Safe

Professional and regulated amateur sports have strict rules to keep players from experiencing sports injuries. For example, sliding headfirst is prohibited in baseball and softball leagues, spearing is illegal in football, and checking incurs a penalty in hockey. Many people suffer sports injuries while riding their bikes, playing sports with their friends or family, or exercising alone. When engaging in any sport, play it safe by following the same rules enforced by sports organizations. Don’t take risks.

Use Proper Technique

Using proper sports techniques can improve your performance while also keeping you safe. If you are unsure what techniques you should use, consult with your coach or personal trainer.

Consult with a Sports Medicine Doctor

Sports medicine doctors can provide personalized information to help their patients avoid sports-related injuries. They will consider all aspects of your health, such as your history of sports injuries and the types of sports you play.

For more tips and information about how to prevent sports injuries, consult with a sports medicine doctor. Reducing your risk for a sports injury can help you stay in the game!