Five ways athletes can avoid overuse injuries
All athletes, young and old, are vulnerable to injury. Jeffrey Guy, MD, explained why overuse injuries are becoming more common, especially among younger athletes, and how they can be prevented.
“You have to allow your body to recover – you can’t continue to exercise without rest. If you don’t recover, you’re going to get a breakdown in your body and then you’re going to be in trouble,” said Dr. Guy.
What factors contribute to overuse injuries?
There are several factors that contribute to overuse injuries, including:
- Age of onset of sport – Many kids begin playing at three and four years old.
- Frequency – People are playing sports year-round, and some even play on two teams at a time. You have to build in recovery time to reduce the impact on your body.
- Sports specialization – If you pick a sport and that’s all you do, you’re using the same body part, over and over again. And that can have long-term effects with time. Mix it up with different activities.
- Stress injuries – Repetitive loads to your bones can develop fractures, and then micro fractures turn into big fractures. With stress injuries, people start off getting sore. The pain is a warning. If you continue to progress and push through pain, you will make it worse and you might end up being out for some time. Typically, if you back off and have it evaluated, that will keep you going.
- Sports nutrition – It’s important to prepare your body, especially if you’re involved in sports that involve endurance, like running. Making sure you keep hydrated and eat properly is part of the recovery process.
Dr. Guy said dietary supplements such as vitamin D can also be helpful. “It’s amazing how many people are vitamin D deficient. Vitamin D is important to absorb the calcium in your body. A normal vitamin D level is between 30 and 100. You can get vitamin D from the sun, but if you wear sunscreen and use SPF 20, it blocks 98% of your vitamin D.”
Dr. Guy recommends at least 3,000 to 5,000 units of vitamin D a day for the average person. And you don’t have to take it every day. “Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, so you can actually take it once a week – 25,000 to 35,000 units a week is certainly reasonable.”
A calcium supplement can be useful, especially during injury, because your body takes calcium from your bones if your diet doesn’t have enough in it. “I tell people to take a Tums, which comes as 500 milligrams. But if you have a normal diet, your calcium is regulated fairly well. I don’t think people with a normal diet need to be on calcium every day,” he said.
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