Preventing the setbacks associated with sports injury.
Sports injuries can be very frustrating. Nothing stops meaningful progress quicker than an injury. For more than 50 years I have participated in competitive sports and endurance events. Competitive athletes are most susceptible to sports injury because their intense training can make certain muscles vulnerable to injury through overuse. I have learned this lesson the hard way. In fact, according to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, research suggests injury rates could be reduced by 25 percent if athletes took appropriate preventative action.
That said, the “weekend warrior” also has a high rate of injury. These weekend athletes often have an exercise regimen, which is a great place to start. Exercise not only helps them manage their weight, but it also improves mood; combats chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease (among others); significantly boosts energy; promotes quality sleep; and can dramatically improve libido. That said, the secret to a long-term commitment to exercise is not to overdo it. However, so many “weekend warriors” begin an exercise regimen with their hair on fire and end up injuring themselves because it became too intense.
Research offers helpful clues about the causes of sports injury. There are two key factors that help to predict sports injury:
• Having a history of injury: Previous injuries to a muscle or joint tend to develop into chronic problem areas for many athletes. It is extremely important to warm up and stretch previously injured areas of the body.
• A high number of consecutive days of training: Recovery days reduce injury rates by giving muscles and connective tissues an opportunity to repair between training sessions.
Although it is impossible to prevent injury all the time due to the unpredictable nature of sports and exercise, it is possible to undertake precautionary steps in order to decrease the likelihood of injury. The following are a few suggestions:
Warm Up: A thorough warm-up is important and significantly reduces the likelihood of injury. A sufficient warm-up session should last at least five to 10 minutes and involves stretching and exercising muscles to prepare them for more strenuous activity. It is vital to start the warm-up slowly and build up gradually to increased levels of movement. This allows for an increased flow of blood to reach the muscles, increasing the flexibility of the muscle fibers and significantly reducing the risk of pulling or straining a muscle. When you have warmed up, you can increase stretches to lengthen the muscles and tendons, further preventing injury. Pay particular attention to stretching those muscles which will be used during a particular sport or exercise.
Listen to Your Body: It is extremely important, when playing sports or exercising, to listen to your body and know your physical limits. When you take on a new sport, begin slowly to avoid pulling or straining muscles you don’t normally use. If you have not exercised for an extended period of time, it is especially important to build up your stamina and strength gradually to avoid injury. Over time, you will notice your fitness levels increase. This will allow you to increase activity levels for longer periods of time.
Hydration: Water is vital for the body. This is especially true when you are exercising. If you are exercising in hotter weather, it is especially important to keep your body hydrated as dehydration can significantly reduce physical performance.
Cool Down: Just as it is important to warm-up properly, it is also very important that you cool down after physical activity. After your workout, spend at least five to 10 minutes doing light exercise, such as walking, to return your heart rate to normal. This cool-down process allows the body to remove the muscles’ waste products and replace these with oxygen and nutrients. This also helps to prevent muscle stiffness and promotes muscle recovery.
Sleep: One of the most important factors that plays into rest recovery, and ultimately injury prevention, is quality sleep. Having good sleep hygiene will not only positively impact physical and mental functioning, but also improve adaptations to training. Recommendations for athletes include getting at least eight hours of sleep per night, sticking to consistent sleep and wake times, minimizing caffeine consumption after lunch, avoiding electronics at least one hour before bed, and sleeping in a cool, dark room.
Dietary Supplements and Injury Prevention
Research indicates that dietary supplements could provide benefits in the area of injury prevention. The following are a few examples and widely found in natural product retailers nationwide:
Calcium and Iron: Deficiencies of both these minerals are quite common. Because they’re important for bone health, athletes who are deficient in calcium and iron are more likely to suffer stress fractures.
Protein: A nutrient that reinforces the body’s muscle tissue. When you suffer an injury, the affected area inevitably loses muscle mass. Protein intake can reduce the risk of losing muscle mass which can significantly help with injury prevention.
Vitamin E: According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), a division of the U.S. National Library of Medicine, supplementing with vitamin E may help to reduce muscle damage from strenuous exercise. Vitamin E is important because it is an antioxidant that prevents oxidative damage that may occur from exercise. This oxidative damage, caused by free radicals, may interfere with the cells’ ability to function normally and could contribute to injury.
Vitamin C: Studies indicate that an inadequate intake of vitamin C may lead to an increased risk of injury. Vitamin C helps the body make collagen, which helps maintain the integrity of bones, muscles, skin and tendons.
Zinc: According to one NCBI report, zinc plays a key role in injury prevention. Furthermore, a deficiency can interfere with recovery. Zinc is required for more than 300 enzymes in the body and plays roles in DNA synthesis, cell division, collagen formation and protein synthesis—all of which are necessary for tissue regeneration and repair.
If you participate in sports or are engaged in a consistent workout regimen, you will eventually experience an injury. It is inevitable and part of being active. That said, the frequency of injuries can be greatly reduced if you take appropriate preventative action. It is vital to be proactive in your approach to injury prevention. At the end of the day, taking certain precautions and strategically supplementing will go a long way toward leading an active, vital and injury-free lifestyle. VR
Mark Becker is a senior account manager for Vivion Inc., a raw materials distributor, based in Vernon, CA. He has worked as a natural products sales and marketing executive for 20 years. Becker has written more than 300 articles and has hosted or been a guest on more than 500 radio shows. He obtained a bachelor’s in journalism from Long Beach State University and did his master’s work in communications at Cal State Fullerton. For more than 35 years he has participated in numerous endurance events, including more than 150 triathlons of Olympic distance or longer, 103 marathons and numerous other events including ultramarathons and rough water swims from Alcatraz to the mainland. He has relied on a comprehensive dietary supplement regimen to support his athletic, professional and personal endeavors. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/#!/becker_mark. For more information, access www.vivioninc.com, www.alliedbionutrition.com or www.EnergyatLast.com.