As the weather gets chillier, it’s tempting to forgo physical exercise for a Netflix marathon on the couch. Thankfully, fair-weather athletes can stay active during the winter months (and all year long) by playing indoor sports like soccer, basketball, racquetball, and volleyball — as long as they take care to avoid sports injuries.
Playing inside helps to avoid slips on ice or frostbite, but athletes are still at risk for many of the injuries associated with playing outdoors, like collisions with other players, ankle rolls, or knee injuries. However, with a few precautions, you can drastically reduce your odds of needing sports rehab later in the season.
1. Stay active all week long
Life is busy and it can be tough to find time to be active, but if you’re only playing your sport of choice once a week, you might end up over-exerting yourself to compensate for your previous inactivity. Instead of being a “weekend warrior,” stay active all week to strengthen muscles, ligaments, and tendons around joints and improve body awareness.
Cross-training will also boost your performance. Swimming is a great choice for cardiovascular fitness, and it is easy on the joints. Pilates and yoga can help build core strength and flexibility, but if you’re not used to these activities, be cautious of your neck and shoulders. If you’re just getting back into shape, avoid boot camp-style fitness classes that can push you past your limits and increase your likelihood of getting hurt.
2. Stretch after, not before, you play
Most of us have been stretching since our first peewee soccer game, so this will seem counter-intuitive. However, plenty of research shows that stretching cold muscles doesn’t reduce your risk of injury and could actually put you at risk. To avoid the need for sports rehabilitation, make sure you’ve warmed up before you play, and only stretch after your muscles are warm. Dynamic warm-ups are the best way to get your muscles and joints prepared for the game. Start with controlled movements that utilize your joint’s full range of motion and increase the blood flow to the muscles. Something as simple as squats, lunges, or light jogging will warm you up and help prevent injury during the game. After the game, a good stretching routine will help you keep your muscles long and lean.
3. Schedule rest days
Whether you’re a newbie or a veteran athlete, you need rest days to let your muscles repair themselves. Each time you exert yourself, you create micro-tears in the muscle fibres that need to heal. This is totally normal (and how the body builds muscle), but it can’t happen if you don’t have a couple of rest days each week. This is especially critical for those who are newly active, but rest days don’t have to mean that you sit on the couch. Rest days can include activities such as walking, a light cycle, or an easy swim.
4. Take care of yourself
A healthy lifestyle — especially good sleep and nutrition — can do wonders for avoiding injury and nursing a current injury. Adequate sleep is needed for your body’s tissues to recover after workouts. Eating a balanced diet will help your body build ligament, bone, and muscle tissue that can withstand the forces placed on the body when you’re active. Nix the junk food and make sure you’re getting enough protein and leafy greens.
5. Stop when it hurts (or you suspect an injury)
If something doesn’t feel right, stop — even mid-game. Minor injuries can turn into serious ones if you try to push through them, so it’s important to stop at the first sign of a problem. If you suspect an injury, call your doctor right away and book yourself an appointment with a physiotherapist at the same time — you don’t need a doctor’s referral. Summit’s physiotherapists are experts in sports medicine and can help you get back in the game.
As with most kinds of physical activity, indoor sports offer more benefits than risks. By following our tips, we hope you’ll remain fit and healthy all winter long — but if you find yourself dealing with a possible injury, please don’t hesitate to contact us. Our doors are always open to both new and current clients.