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No Pain, Just Game: Enjoy Sports Safely with Your Crew

Last updated: March 11, 2024

March Madness has arrived. It’s a time that reminds many of us of the joys of not just spectating sports but participating as well.

If the tournament rekindles in you a desire to set up a pickup game with friends, embrace it. Engaging in sports with others is good for both your physical and mental health. Playing a half-court game of basketball can burn upward of 500 calories per hour, while also allowing you to connect with others.

Before you hit the basketball court (or softball field or tennis or pickleball court), it’s a good idea to take some steps to ensure you keep your body safe and healthy.

“Through properly preparing your body, you’re more likely to avoid injury — and enjoy the ability to keep doing what you love,” says Dr. Ryan Wagner, Sports Medicine Physician with ThedaCare Orthopedic Care.

Steps to Stave Off Injury

1. Know your limits. As you age, your body changes. This is impossible to avoid, even for those with the healthiest lifestyles. With aging, we slow down a bit, experience decreased balance, have less energy and lung capacity, and lose strength.

“Try to accept these changes and adjust accordingly,” Dr. Wagner says. “That might mean playing a shorter game, taking more breaks, or playing less often to give your body time to recover. If you’re normally more sedentary, be extra careful.”

2. Wear proper footwear. This is easy to forget, especially if you’re more of a casual athlete. Donning supportive shoes keeps your feet and ankles safe and helps you avoid injury. Don’t wear worn-out shoes, and invest in a pair that’s made for the activity you’re doing.

3. Warm up and cool down. This is essential for casual and seasoned athletes alike, as it can help prevent injury and soreness.

To prepare your body for exertion, do dynamic exercises for five to 10 minutes. This movement-based type of warmup could include lunges, jumping jacks, or simply a bit of walking. Close with static stretching, where you hold a position for a period of time. Focus on the muscles you’ve just worked. In the case of basketball, you’ll want to stretch both your upper and lower body.

4. Fuel properly. This includes both food and water. Eat a light, healthy meal or snack before exercising. To avoid an upset stomach, wait an hour or two to exercise after a small meal and 30 to 60 minutes after a snack.

Drink plenty of water before, during, and after exercise. Staying hydrated helps reduce the risk of muscle cramps, heat stress, injury, and decreased stamina. Water is best. Sports drinks often contain high amounts of sugar.

5. Vary activities. Make sure your regular routine includes a good mix of cardio, strength, and balance and flexibility activities.

“Not only will this keep you healthy overall, it will help you stay safe and perform better when you’re participating in sports,” Dr. Wagner says.

6. Don’t push through pain. If you feel pain or fatigue, stop or pause your activity accordingly. Pain and exhaustion are your body’s signals that you need to back off.

“There’s no pride in pushing yourself too hard,” Dr. Wagner says. “In fact, if you want to keep doing your favorite activities, it’s best to listen to your body and give it what it needs. That also includes ample rest time.”

When to Seek Care

Injuries can happen, even if you take all the steps to keep yourself safe. If you experience pain, injury, or a sprain or strain, ThedaCare Orthopedic Care is here to help. ThedaCare Orthopedic Walk-in Care is open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays and from 8 a.m. to noon on weekends. To make an appointment with an orthopedic specialist, call (920) 831-5050.

Tags: aging athletes basketball injury prevention March Madness Orthopedic Walk-in Care sports medicine

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