Every spring and summer, doctors see a jump in the number of musculoskeletal injuries and even cardiac cases. It’s usually people who haven’t been very active all winter and then jump right into sports or exercise programs without giving their bodies a chance to adjust.
Work up to your workouts
The key is to start slowly. Try to gradually increase the intensity of your activity at the beginning of the season.
Before each activity, start with a cardiac warm-up — like a brisk walk or another aerobic activity — for 10 to 15 minutes. Then stretch your muscles, holding each stretch for at least 30 seconds. After your workout, practice or game, stretch again as part of your cool down.
Of course, if you have an existing injury or medical condition, don’t take chances. Check with your doctor before engaging in strenuous activity.
Is it pain—or injury?
How do you know if you just have sore muscles or if you’ve really hurt yourself? The big difference is function.
If you tear your tendon at the knee, for example, you won’t be able to straighten your leg at the knee. If you tear your Achilles’ tendon, you can’t stand on your toes. If your rotator cuff is torn, you won’t be able to lift your arm straight out to the side or in front of you.
If it’s just muscular tenderness, it will start improving after a day or two of ibuprofen, ice and rest. If it’s an injury, it won’t improve in pain or function. That’s when it’s time to see a doctor.
Don’t tough it out
Pay attention to how you feel. If something hurts, give it a rest for a few days to see if it’s just muscle soreness or a potential injury.
It’s not uncommon for people to get some pretty significant injuries by continuing to exercise despite the pain. In other words, don’t try to “tough it out” — unless you like the view from the bench.