The Dreaded Summer Sports Injury

This past weekend has been a welcome reminder of the outdoor possibilities for activity during the warm, breezy summer months. With the rest of June, July and August just around the corner, the options for outdoor play… and injury are numerous. We have put together a list of the three most common summertime injuries with some helpful tips to protect yourself this upcoming season.

As could be expected with our short summer seasons, the majority of injuries originate from overexertion without proper preparation. Unlike the professional athletes we have been watching all winter, most of us haven’t been conditioning our bodies, pushing our endurance and training our muscles for the summer. Unfortunately, many of us play like we have and put our bodies in harm’s way trying to reenact that 200-foot drive or stylish slide into home plate.

It is important to ease into the season. Start off by warming up and stretching before taking part in any sort of sport, your body will thank you endlessly. Make sure you have the proper equipment and are dressed appropriately for the impact of the sport. Don’t be afraid to sit out an inning or take a breather if things start to feel stiff or overused. Those ten minutes of rest could save your season!

So, without further ado, here are the three most common summer injuries, with some tips on how to avoid being one of those we see in these coming months:

Golf/Tennis Elbow:

These two injuries are similar and occur with overuse and muscle strain to the tendons in the arm. Inner forearm strain is linked to golfer’s elbow while outer forearm pain is associated with tennis elbow. These conditions cause irritation and inflammation around the elbow. The repetition of any activity that requires repeated twisting or flexing of the wrist causes golfer’s elbow. Tennis elbow comes from increased use of the backhand and forehand. Although the injury is common year round with any repeated activity, the increase in regular physical activity during summer months makes its occurrence more frequently in July and August. Often these injuries show their faces at the beginning of summer or at the beginning of the sporting season because the body isn’t use to that much stress and strain so quickly. The most common symptom if it is tennis elbow, is pain that radiates from the outside of the elbow. Or, if it is golfer’s elbow, pain will be on the inside of the elbow and can radiate down to the forearm and wrists. Both impede the ability to reach, grasp or lift.

Prevention: Stretch and strengthen! Most injuries on this list can be avoided by properly preparing all your muscle groups for the strain that a repeated activity causes to the body. In these cases, pay special attention to strengthening and stretching the forearm. If you start to feel discomfort in the area, take a few days off and rest. The worst thing you can do is continue to aggravate an injury just starting that would otherwise go away on its own. If the pain does not subside, see a physiotherapist about an elbow brace or other treatment measures, which can distribute some of the impact and support counter pressure to the arm.

Also, ease into the sport or activity whether it be golf, gardening, landscaping, canoeing or tennis.

Sprained Ankle:

When kids and adults join summer recreational team sports, the number of sprained ankles skyrockets. Divots in the fresh spring fields, improper equipment, slippery grass and not quite perfect balance make the possibility of injury high. An actual ankle sprain will cause injury to the soft tissue by pulling ligaments of the ankle and can last several days or even weeks. The possibility of further injury of other soft tissues such as tendons, muscles and connective tissue is common. Symptoms include pain, swelling, bruising, not being able weight bear and even possibly hearing a pop at the time of the injury. A very minor ankle roll will go away in a matter of hours or overnight. Whether it’s a minor or significant ankle injury, it is important to use the PRICE (protection, rest, ice, compression and elevation) method to alleviate pain and decrease the possibility of long-term injury.

Prevention: Be aware of the conditions in the area you are playing in. Check before a game if there are any natural hazards such as rocks, holes or slippery playing surfaces that could interfere with safe movement. Ensure your shoes have ample grip and fit snuggly so there is no room for the ankle to shift around or land improperly. Before taking position, introduce movement into your ankle by drawing gentle circles in the air or next to the ground with the toes for a minute. Again, take time to stretch and warm up so that muscle groups are ready to take impact and will react to quick movements within the game. One-legged balancing exercises are also helpful to get your muscles and nerves firing more efficiently.

Shoulder Injuries:

The most common injury to the shoulder is a strain to the rotator cuff. The rotator cuff is the group of muscles and tendons that attach to the shoulder bones that stabilize and allow movement in the area. Sports like baseball, tennis or swimming, where the arm is moved repeatedly overhead are the most common causes of this type of injury. Irritation from the rotator cuff can come in two forms: inflammation or an actual tear in the tendons. The pain that accompanies an injury in this area is usually in the front of the shoulder and oftentimes travels down the side of the arm, usually only until the elbow. If you feel a sudden snapping sensation of pain in the area or a constant growing ache, either could be a rotator injury. In this case, rest and apply ice to calm the area and make sure you are pain-free before jumping back into participating in sports! If the injury lasts longer than a week, make an appointment with your Physiotherapist so we can get you back at your sport as soon as possible.

Prevention: The most important preventative measure you can take to protect your rotator cuff is to keep muscles in the shoulders flexible and strong with stretching and regular exercise. When it is time to step it up in game time, watch your posture, take frequent breaks from having your hands overhead and relax your shoulders so that movement is smooth.

We hope that you have an excellent, safe and fun-filled summer out there! If you have any questions about an injury or if you would like to see a physiotherapist to assess an issue, please give us a call!