Watching out for common outdoor injuries as you get back to nature this spring.

It’s already April, and many of us who have largely hibernated during the winter are again venturing outside to engage in our favorite forms of exercise and recreation. Unfortunately, no matter what you’re up to, there’s always the risk of injury. Fortunately, a little awareness can help keep you both active and injury free.

As we all get outdoors this month, we’re taking a look at some of the more popular forms of exercise in Texas—and some of the most common afflictions that come with the territory. Many of these injuries can be treated at home with rest, anti-inflammatory medications and improved exercise form. But if the pain persists, don’t hesitate to get professional medical help.

 

Running and Walking

• Shin splints are small tears in the muscles around your shinbones, and are common among new runners or after a long layoff from running. 

• Runner’s knee is an irritation under the kneecap that can flare up while descending stairs or hills, or leaning too far forward while exercising.

• IT band syndrome involves the iliotibial (IT) band, a tendon connecting the knee to your hip. It occurs when the tendon becomes inflamed, creating the feeling of being stabbed on the side of the knee.

• Achilles tendinitis is an inflammation of the tendon just above the heel, often caused by overexertion and tight calf muscles.

• Plantar fasciitis is an inflammation at the bottom of the foot which can lead to excruciating pain and is often caused by tight calf muscles.

Cycling

• Achilles tendinitis is an overexertion injury that for cyclists can also be caused by a poor bike fit and improper position of shoe cleats.

• Patellar tendonitis is similar to runner’s knee and is an inflammation of the patellar tendon located just below the knee, and can be caused by a seat that’s too low or riding too long using big gears.

• Saddle sores are skin irritations caused by your bones rubbing against your bicycle saddle. Old shorts and a saddle that’s too high are common causes.

• Lower back pain can be caused by a poor bike fit and long hours in an aggressive riding position.

Swimming

• Swimmer’s shoulder is caused by the repetitive motion of swimming and can lead to pain and inflammation in the shoulder joint, especially in cases of incorrect technique or overwork.

• A labrum tear, a more severe form of swimmer’s shoulder, is a tear in the labrum fibrocartilage that helps keep the ball joint in place. If left untreated, surgery may be required.

• Breaststroker’s knee is very common among those using this stroke. Due to the wide kick and over rotation of the knees, inner parts of the knees can become inflamed, leading to chronic pain.

 

Tips to Prevent Sports Injuries

You may be familiar with the old adage, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” With that wisdom in mind, here are some preventive measures favored by sports medicine experts at Johns Hopkins University and the New England Baptist Hospital.

Plan and prepare. Before starting an exercise routine, get your doctor’s approval. Next, especially if you’re trying something new, learn the proper techniques for your sport or activity. Working with a personal trainer or signing up for a class is often a fun way to learn a new sport.

Set realistic goals and take your time. It’s important that your exercise goals be realistic and achievable. Set an obtainable goal and gradually work to achieve it, giving your body time to adjust to added stresses on bones, joints, and muscles.

Warm up and cool down. Take the time for both of these, as research shows that a heated muscle is less likely to be strained. Warm up with some light walking or jogging before you exercise and then again afterward to allow your muscles to cool slowly.

Stay hydrated! Keeping hydrated is a great way to keep your muscles working efficiently. If you’re dehydrated, you’re more likely to have cramps or pull a muscle. 

Listen to your body. Adjust your program if your body shows signs of stress. While mild and short-lived muscle aches are usually not too bad, joint pain is a clear sign of your body telling you that you need to cut back. 

By David Buice

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