Weekend Warriors Beware

Warm weather and sunshine are sure to bring guys outside to play – and to work a little as well. With the onset of spring, it’s time to spruce up the yard, pull the car into the driveway for a good washing, or paint the house. Springtime also means a return to outdoor sports such as golf, tennis and softball. Of course, along with these activities come the risks of injuries.

Prepare For Spring Activities

By Mike Haskew

INJURY PREVENTION

Minimizing the risk of injury is a key element in making the most of outdoor activities. Before swinging the golf club, lacing up the sneakers, donning the hiking boots, climbing the ladder, or wielding the chain saw; pause to consider safety first. Injuries related to outdoor activities can range from minor irritations to serious accidents.

“The best advice, number one, is to try to stay active in the wintertime with appropriate exercise and not become de-conditioned,” advises Dr. Shay Richardson, who practices general sports and interventional musculoskeletal medicine with the Center for Sports Medicine and Orthopaedics in Chattanooga. “The second important point is not to go out ‘full bore’ immediately. Make the return to activity gradual.”

The feeling of pain is beneficial, believe it or not. The message is clear when the body is trying to tell an individual that it is overworked, fatigued or strained in some way. To avoid the downtime of injuries related to spring activities, listen to the body’s warning. In addition, take a few precautionary steps to prevent the onset of pain and injuries.

Generally, it is a good idea to stretch, walk around for five to 10 minutes to warm up, and remain well hydrated, particularly in warm weather or with strenuous exercise. Take a look around the work or exercise area to prevent accidents caused by tripping over a fallen tree branch or slipping in a puddle. Measure the pace of work and exercise. Take breaks and rest for a few minutes. Even professional athletes are allowed to catch their breath once in a while.

SPRING CLEANING

Spring cleaning is a particularly hazardous time around the house, and lifting heavy items, standing on ladders or frequently going up and down stairs present opportunities for injuries. When lifting, allow the strong, long muscles of the legs to do most of the work rather than the back, arms or stomach muscles. Be aware of physical limitations and don’t try to lift more weight than an average individual can safely handle. Bend at the knees rather than the waist, and carry heavy items close to the body while maintaining good posture without twisting. Pulled muscles, also known as strained or torn muscles, are painful and inconvenient.

When trimming trees or changing light bulbs, use an appropriate ladder or step ladder rather than a chair and make sure the foundation is stable before climbing. Nasty falls mean trips to the emergency room. Clear the stairs and hold the hand rail if possible. One misstep could be catastrophic.

SPORTS PREP

Sports and outdoor activities require some planning to ensure safety. Wear appropriate clothing, hydrate and set a reasonable pace during strenuous exercise. Make sure any necessary gear is in proper working order and – since men have a tendency to show off their athletic prowess – choose an activity that is suitable for the individual skill level.

“Try to continue with your golf swing during the winter,” comments Dr. Richardson, who joined the Center for Sports Medicine and Orthopaedics in July 2010 following a sports medicine and interventional pain/spine fellowship at John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth, Texas.

“Go to the driving range a few times so you don’t have an abrupt change in your activity. Make sure you continue good exercise like core strengthening to stabilize the muscles of the spine and lower back. These are areas to focus on to keep worse things from happening like disc herniations and that kind of thing,”says Dr. Richardson.

For Dr. Richardson, the most common springtime injuries he sees are generated by overuse, such as tendonitis or tennis elbow. Following closely are acute conditions such as sprains, broken bones, and spinal injuries. Other injuries may occur with the joints or connective tissue, including strains or tears of the ligaments or cartilage in the knee, or a pulled hamstring.

IF YOU GET HURT

Men involved in springtime physical activity, particularly athletics, are susceptible to the ubiquitous sprain of the ankle, knee, wrist or back, which are actually stretches or tears of associated ligaments. Despite preventive efforts and preparation, when such an injury does occur, Dr. Richardson recommends a series of actions typically referred to as “RICE” for rest, ice, compression and elevation.

“Start with rest,” he comments, “then apply ice as soon as possible, on for 20 minutes and then off for 20 minutes, rotating a couple of times a day in the morning and evening. Avoid heat for the first 72 hours because all of this is an attempt to decrease any mediators of inflammation. Then you can apply heat later if it helps the injury to feel better. Compression is done with a wrap, brace or neoprene sleeve, and keeping the injured area elevated will lessen swelling.”

For the active guy, springtime activities, indoor and outdoor, are a part of life. The occasional bump or bruise goes with the territory, and sometimes an injury. Many of these can be treated at home; however, knowing when to seek medical help is important in reducing the pain, inconvenience and any complications that may arise.

“For someone with a musculoskeletal injury, the time to go to the doctor is when the injury becomes a significant impediment to the quality of life,” reasons Dr. Richardson. “There is a point when the pain becomes too severe or that the situation has gone on long enough that the person is tired of dealing with it. If there is a deformity or something like that, seek treatment immediately, and if you have a sprain to deal with then visiting the doctor can be beneficial and can alleviate the severity of the issue.”

To enjoy springtime activities to the fullest, take a few precautions, use the proverbial ounce of prevention, prepare the body for physical exercise, and monitor the duration and level of stress to your body.

Mike Haskew is a graduate of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and holds a degree in history. He is a native Chattanoogan and is currently an executive with Community Trust & Banking.