As the weather warms up, more people get outside to enjoy the sunshine, flowers, and the sights, sounds, and smells of new life all around – and to play sports. From golf, baseball, and soccer to running, biking, and rollerblading, spring brings out the athlete in all of us. However, with so many people enjoying the outdoors and staying active, there are naturally more injuries as well, to the tune of millions each year. You can maximize your odds of an injury-free season with a few simple steps.
See your doctor
If you are beginning a new activity or jumping back into one you haven’t done in a while, it’s a good idea to schedule an appointment with your physician. During this appointment, you can discuss any old injuries and ensure that they have healed properly and won’t cause more problems going forward if you start your sport of choice again. You should also ask about any conditions you may have been diagnosed within the past including asthma, diabetes, or heart disease to be sure that your doctor feels it’s safe for you to participate.
Take it slow – at first
If you haven’t taken part in a given activity for a while (or perhaps never before), start slowly and build up your endurance and intensity gradually to minimize the chance of injury. If you have mainly been sedentary, start with something light such as walking to develop your endurance before moving on to more strenuous activity. You should also warm up before working out and cool down afterward, regardless of your fitness level.
One of the most important things you can do when you work out, especially in warm weather, is to keep yourself properly hydrated. Drinking plenty of water helps your heart work more efficiently and prevents you from becoming dehydrated even if you sweat a lot. Water is the best choice, but if you are doing extremely vigorous activities for extended periods, sports drinks may be helpful. Avoid those with a lot of sugar.
Use the proper equipment
Being active outdoors is fun and feels great, but depending on your activity of choice, you may need to wear some protective gear to keep yourself safe. A helmet is a must if you’re bicycling, rollerblading, skateboarding, or playing baseball or softball. Depending on your sport, you may also need a mouth guard, eye protection, or protective guards for the elbows, wrists, or knees. Learn about the safety equipment required for your sport and use it correctly.
Take breaks and don’t play when injured
During any physical activity, whether for leisure or competition, it’s important to take breaks to give your body a chance to recover and keep yourself from becoming overheated. Take periodic breaks in a cool, shaded spot – inside an air-conditioned building, if possible. If you do sustain an injury, follow your doctor’s instructions and give it time to heal correctly before jumping back in.
Following these tips can give you the best odds of a fun, successful, and injury-free spring and summer, no matter how active you are.