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In this article:
More than 2 million sports injuries occur every year.
Following an exercise regimen that starts slow and increases in intensity is safest.
It’s important to pay attention to signs of overtraining to avoid potential injury.
The fall months are widely known for the return of many types of sports. Maybe your teen is playing football or perhaps you’re getting back into running after taking a break over the sweltering summer. Whatever the sport, it’s important to do it safely.
Every year, Americans experience more than 2.2 million sports-related injuries. While some are unavoidable, many can be prevented. The Providence Orthopedics & Sports Medicine Institute (OSM) is a multi-institutional facility equipped to help guide you through sports training. Our collaborative and knowledgeable group of experts offers a comprehensive approach to your sports needs.
“At Providence, we don’t just serve one specific city. We bring our knowledge and skills together to work with athletes, help them develop safe exercise plans, and assist them in safely returning to sports participation,” says Breanne Brown, D.O., OSM co-chair. “We’re also in a unique situation to collaborate with primary care physicians, cardiologists, and orthopedists to offer our patients the best level of care possible and keep them active.”
To help you create a safe, healthy sports training regimen, Dr. Brown offers some tips on how to get started and some dos and don’ts. She also explains some signs of overtraining.
Get your training started
Even if you or your child are motivated to play a sport, getting started can be the hardest part. Your first step, Dr. Brown says, should be learning about the activity itself.
“Having some knowledge of the activity and knowing what is involved with the sport is always important,” she says. “Make sure you or your child is healthy and that you’re in good enough physical condition to participate. Pay attention to any physical injuries or any other health restrictions.”
In addition, there are other things you should keep in mind:
See your doctor: Make an appointment with your health care provider before beginning any new activity.
“Set up a visit with your main health care provider or another doctor who knows your well,” she says. “Ask the right questions ahead of doing any activity to ensure that it’s safe for you.”
Learn about the sports equipment: Be sure you have the necessary equipment and understand how to use it.
“Your particular sport may have a lot of equipment involved. Be sure you know how to use it and that it fits well,” she says. “Equipment that doesn’t fit well can potentially harm you or hinder your ability to participate."
Start — or stick with — healthy habits: Drink enough water, eat a healthy diet and get enough sleep.
Start slow and build
Whenever you begin a new training routine — even if you’ve worked out before — it’s important not to overdo it from the beginning, Dr. Brown says.
“Some people, when they start a new sport, dive right in and do everything. That can be harmful since you may be using new muscles that you’ve never used before,” she says. “Starting with a full-on sprint is a great way to get injured.”
Instead, she recommends starting slow and following these steps:
Warm up: With every new activity, stretching is important. If you’re starting an activity that raises your heart rate, walk briskly or jog for 5 to 10 minutes before you play.
Pace yourself: Don’t start out with the heaviest weights or the longest distance. Begin with light, short workouts and add to them over time. For example, if you play soccer, start with short, gentle passes at close range and work up to longer-distance kicks.
Listen to your coach: If you have a coach, listen to their advice, and learn from their experience.
Know the training dos and don’ts
To keep yourself safe and healthy during training, there are several things to keep in mind, Dr. Brown says. Remember these tips when you exercise:
Sleep: Getting enough sleep helps your muscles recover from a strenuous workout. It can also improve your overall athletic performance. You’ll have better reaction times, better accuracy and a lower risk of injury.
Eat well: Maintaining a healthy diet can help fuel your workouts. Be sure you’re eating a good mix of lean protein and complex carbohydrates, including fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Focus on drinking enough water during and after your workouts, as well.
Vary your exercises: Give yourself some variety. Rather than doing the same workout every day, mix it up to ensure you’re working all your muscle groups.
“Not every workout should be the same every day. There will be days when you may go at a slower pace, but you’ll work out longer. Other days, your activity will be more intense and shorter,” she says. “You want that variation in activity. It can help prevent injury.”
Skip the warm-up or cool down: Both should only take you 5 to 10 minutes, and they’re critical for avoiding injury, she says. Taking the time to prepare and relax your muscles helps them recover from your workout faster.
Over-train: Doing too much in a single session or working out too often during a short time can have negative consequences. Yes, you could hurt yourself, but you could also wear yourself out and lose your motivation. You’re also more likely to have problems sleeping and are more to get sick.
Set unrealistic goals: If you’re training for an event like a marathon, setting goals for yourself is important. Focus on establishing ones you can reach. Otherwise, you may push yourself too hard and end up injured or burned out.
Recognize the signs of over-training
Just like when you’re sick, your body will tell you when you’re working out too hard or doing too much. Pay attention, Dr. Brown says, and if you see any of these signs, scale back on your efforts:
Pain: Training should stress your muscles, but it shouldn’t cause pain. If your exercise hurts, especially if the pain lingers, stop.
Swelling: Let your doctor know if you have any swelling in your joints.
Delayed recovery: If it takes longer for your muscles to recover, it’s time to give your muscles a rest.
Stalled or decreased performance: When you stop seeing improvements — or see performance declines — you should reduce your training for a while.
Overall, Dr. Brown says, listening to your body and gradually increasing the intensity of your workouts are the keys to successful training.
“Start slow and build up into your training,” she says. “You’re more likely to avoid injury and have better results.”
Find a doctor
The doctors and sports medicine providers at Providence can guide you to safer sports training this season. If you need to find a doctor, you can use our provider directory. Through Providence Express Care Virtual, you can also access a full range of health care services.
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This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your health care professional's instructions.
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