Summer sports safety advice from ONS sports medicine specialist, Katherine Vadasdi, MD.
With Memorial Day upon us, summer is a great time for outdoor sports as long as you take certain precautions to avoid injury and illness. With the increase in temperatures, proper hydration is a must. Intense exercise that causes you to sweat is usually a good reminder to drink water, but you can become dehydrated simply taking a walk or playing ball with your child during hot weather. Swimmers, who don’t notice their perspiration and tend to feel cooler because they are exercising in water, need to remember to replace fluids on a regular basis, too.
Generally, it takes the body about 10 days to adapt to the heat. Even if you’ve stayed conditioned throughout the winter, it’s important to start your outdoor exercise slowly, gradually increasing in time and intensity until your body has fully acclimated. Whenever possible, exercise in the cooler parts of the day such as morning and evening.
Similarly, if you haven’t played a sport since the fall, such as golf and tennis, don’t expect to just pick up your game where you left off. Back sprains, tennis or golfers elbow and wrist problems can pop up if you haven’t taken the time to develop the muscles that are important for your specific sport. Knee injuries such as meniscus tears and anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) ruptures are common when the knee is unstable and if there is an imbalance in the hip and leg muscles. A sudden pivot or twist while running or jumping could derail your active summer by requiring surgery and rehabilitation. Relatively short strengthening programs can have a significant impact on reducing the risk of ACL injuries and anterior knee pain.
It’s also important to protect your skin from the sun. At the very least, use a waterproof sunscreen with a minimum SPF of 30 – 45 that is designed for sports. Be sure to apply the sunscreen at least 30 minutes before you go outside, even if the day is overcast, and reapply every two to three hours.