Whether it’s running or club soccer, sports offer variety, camaraderie and competition while pushing you to work harder, stay on track, and be your best, healthiest self – and that’s a great goal to have.
With more than 93 million Americans considered obese, leading an active, healthy lifestyle is more important than ever. More than just carrying around excess weight, obesity puts you at greater risk for conditions like heart disease, hypertension, stroke, diabetes, and osteoarthritis. Making sports a part of your fitness regimen can help manage your weight while improving your coordination, endurance, and overall mental health.
For those who have a history of orthopedic issues, including back and joint pain, some sports may exacerbate or cause injury.
Here at the South Shore Hospital Center for Orthopedics, Spine, and Sports Medicine, we diagnose, treat and rehabilitate many types of sports-related injuries. From sprains to shin splints, joint replacements to bone fractures, the causes of these injuries can vary. Some of the most common include:
- Previous injury
- Wearing the wrong gear or equipment
- Not warming up or cooling down properly
- Overtraining or increasing intensity too quickly
- Poor mechanics
- Weakened bones, muscles, tendons or ligaments
- Muscle imbalances
- Dehydration, fatigue and lack of nutrition
As a physical therapist in sports medicine, I don’t believe the fear of injury should dissuade anyone from playing sports. However, there are a few things to consider before getting into a sport:
- How it affects your joints and bones. If you already have orthopedic issues and want to reduce your risk of injury or reinjury, consider a lower impact activity like walking, swimming, cycling, rowing or tai chi.
- That you’re using the right equipment. Having the proper apparel, footwear, protective padding and equipment for whatever sport you choose to play isn’t just an aesthetic decision. It can reduce your risk of serious injury, too.
- That you’re using correct form. An athletic trainer or physical therapist can work with you to ensure your musculoskeletal system can handle the range of motion needed to meet your performance goals.
- Your overall health. Being overweight can put you at risk for a number of serious health conditions, but jumping into a sport or any strenuous exercise regimen too quickly can also be risky. It’s best to ease into any new fitness routine to ensure your heart, lungs and joints can keep up with the change in workload.
- What you enjoy doing. At the end of the day, participating in sports should combine fitness and fun. While some body types make you more able to excel at a particular sport (I’m looking at you, Celtics 7-footers), playing a sport because you genuinely enjoy it almost guarantees you’ll stick to your fitness regimen.
Regardless of age or ability, anyone is capable of finding the athlete within themselves. Whether you’re pushing yourself to swim faster, run farther or lift heavier, the key to enjoying sports while remaining injury-free is to temper that drive with a healthy dose of listening to your body and respecting your personal limits. And, whether you’re a weekend warrior, student athlete or seasoned pro, should you find yourself injured in your pursuits, the team of sports medicine specialists at the Center for Orthopedics, Spine and Sports Medicine can help get you back on track – or field, pitch or court.