25 Essential Tips for Any Athlete to Stay Healthy All Season

December 02, 2009

Did you realize that fitness in general is linked to fewer doctor visits and overnight hospital stays? At the same time, sports can be risky — you can be injured by a softball as well as by hardcore competition in contact sports. While each sport requires different injury prevention measures, underlying tips can help you stay healthy all season, no matter the sport.

The following list of twenty-five essential tips for any athlete to stay healthy all season is divided into categories by warm-weather sports, cold-weather sports and links to tips that can help you stay healthy all year long. Each link listed within those categories is listed linked to the source, so you can delve deeper into that resource to learn more.

Warm-Weather Sports

Warm-weather sports require a focus on hydration, heat illnesses and water safety. The following tips cover all these topics and a few more…

  1. Allergy Sufferers Beware: Some allergy medications may sap your strength and elevate your heart rate. Read about one person’s experience and get some advice at this link.
  2. Basketball Players Hurt More: According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, basketball leads a list of the ten most popular summer recreational activities with the most injuries, followed by cycling and baseball. Learn how to protect yourself in these sports with this article and its resources. For students, cheerleading represents two-thirds of all catastrophic severe sports injuries.
  3. Beat the Heat: Any time the temperature climbs over ninety degrees Fahrenheit, you’re putting yourself at risk for heat-related illnesses and even death. Avoid afternoon outdoor sports, stay hydrated and learn more about heat-related deaths and illnesses at this site.
  4. Learn about Water Safety: Water sports are more popular during the summer, and water-related accidents abound as well. Learn more about recreational water safety at the National Water Safety Congress Web site.
  5. Sweating is Good: Functional sweat glands can help you stay cool during summer sports, but a number of issues can block this function such as nerve damage, alcohol, certain medications, genetic disorders and more. Some people may not be aware that they have a malfunctioning system until they become dehydrated or sick. Learn more about this issue at the Mayo Clinic.

Cold-Weather Sports

Skiing, snowmobiling and other cold-weather sports provide doctors and emergency rooms with plenty of activity over winter months. You can avoid some injuries with the following tips:

  1. Layer Clothing: Muscles, tendons and ligaments do not stretch as quickly or as well when they’re cold. Warm up before you head out and dress in layers to keep warm and to be able to shed some layers if you become overheated.
  2. Pair Up for Winter Sports: One reason to pair up is to enjoy a non-team activity, such as walking, skating or skiing with another person. The other reason is to be able to help the other person if he or she becomes injured. For instance, many people cannot recognize their own signs for hypothermia (see below), so a buddy system can become a life-saving system in some cases.
  3. Signs and Symptoms of Hypothermia: Learn the signs and symptoms of this condition, that often is caused by cold weather. This is another reason to buddy-up for winter sports, as the person who develops hypothermia may not recognize their own symptoms.
  4. Avoid Thin Ice: Ice skating, snowmobiling and other activities that include ice need special attention. You can avoid injury and fatalities by learning what to do when you participate in ice-related sports through this article produced by the U.S. Consumer Safety Product Commission.
  5. Know Your Terrain: Outside of the thin ice situation, you can avoid injury and death if you know your terrain. Running through a barbed wire fence, for instance, can result in the loss of a limb. Back country skiing, also, is open to life-threatening situations such as avalanches. many ski resorts, such as Keystone (linked here) offer advice on how to avoid winter sports injuries.
  6. Know Winter Weather: Nothing can be more life-threatening than to be caught in the back country during a blizzard. These weather changes can come on quickly in mountainous regions, so make sure you know what to expect before you head out for winter (or even summer) mountain sports.
  7. Stay Dry: Insulated and/or waterproof clothing can help keep you warm. Feet are especially vulnerable to frostbite. Carry extra clothes with you to change into if you become too sweaty or wet from the weather.

Year-Round Injury-Prevention Tips

  1. Begin Slowly: If you’re just starting to work out, start slowly to help avoid overworking muscles. A pre-season conditioning program or training (see below) can help you ease into your seasonal sports activity.
  2. Choose Your Sport Carefully: Although this link leads to an article geared toward parents with children, the tips can be just as appropriate for adults who may not know their limits. Participating in a sport that is age-appropriate and suited to your lifestyle, physical fitness level and training can help you to avoid injury.
  3. Invest in Training: Even coaches must learn how to help their athletes avoid injuries. The more skilled or dangerous the sport (such as tennis or rock-climbing) or the more competitive (such as soccer), the more imperative the training for all involved to help avoid needless injury.
  4. Keep Muscles Strengthened: While stretching before sports has become a hotly debated issue, the point is to keep muscles flexible and strong. Conditioning the entire body, instead of just one part of your body, adds strength and stamina to any sport you pursue and it also avoids overuse of any one part of your body.
  5. Learn the Statistics: When you know that male adolescents are particularly vulnerable to snowboarding injuries, you might provide them with extra safety measures. The majority of injuries occur during falls, and these falls occur when attempting to jump during the first season of snowboarding. Extra training may help avoid becoming a statistic, but knowledge about your sport and its risk may help you to avoid injury as well.
  6. No Pain No Gain Myth: Celebrity trainer Harley Pasternak and many other trainers now dispel the “no pain no gain” axiom, as pain may be the first sign that something is wrong. When in pain, stop and examine the source of the pain before you continue workouts or sports activities.
  7. Wear the Right Gear: Each sport has gear that was designed to keep participants safe and to help avoid injury.
  8. Signs and Symptoms of Traumatic Brain Injury: Even if you wear a helmet, you may sustain a brain injury during sports activity. Some symptoms may not appear for weeks. This list provides you with some insight into signs and symptoms so you can monitor your progress after an injury.
  9. Sun Protection: No matter the season, protect your skin from UV damage with sunscreen. Although summer heat can cause immediate damage with burns, you can obtain damage during the winter as well, and some sun damage may take a few years to develop. You can learn more through this link to the Cancer Research UK Web site.
  10. Avoid Alcohol: Although alcohol may seem to help you warm up in winter, alcohol actually constricts blood vessels and lowers the body’s tolerance for heat. Plus, it dehydrates the body and has many long-term effects. Finally, it clouds judgment, something you don’t need during a physical activity. Learn more about how alcohol can affect performance, recovery and more from this link.
  11. Adjust to Altitude Changes: No matter the season, a change in altitude can affect performance and become a source for injuries and illnesses that can affect the brain and lungs. This link to the International Society for Mountain Medicine can provide more information about this problem.
  12. Wildlife Threats: Humans can be threats to wildlife, but the opposite can occur if you let your guard down. This article illustrates some animals to watch for in Colorado, but other areas – including seemingly tame neighborhoods – can prove threatening if they’re filled with loose dogs, wild pigs, deer or bear.
  13. Stay Aware at All Times: Even when you aren’t participating in a sport, awareness can help you stay on top of your game. You don’t want to break a wrist while washing a car or throw out a pitching shoulder when you turn off your alarm clock.

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