Ease into your spring sports routine. That’s the recommendation of Dr. Julio Martinez-Silvestrini, sports medicine specialist and medical director, Baystate Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.
“Getting yourself back in shape to play sports isn’t something that happens overnight,” said Dr. Martinez-Silvestrini, who is board certified in sports medicine.
Ideally, conditioning for a return to spring sports for both adults and kids – including running and everything else from baseball to soccer and from golf to track – should begin 6-8 weeks prior to the new season, but the long hard winter, cold temperatures and continued snow have been a deterrent, noted Dr. Martinez-Silvestrini.
The Baystate Medical Center physiatrist cautioned athletes not to make up for lost time by pushing the body too far, which can lead to physical injury, especially for those lacing up their running shoes.
“Listen to your body. If you experience any pain, discomfort or fatigue, it’s your body saying it has had enough,” said Dr. Martinez-Silvestrin. “We call these injuries the 'terrible too’s,' meaning too much, too fast, too soon.”
He said it takes at least two weeks to get into even minimal shape for participating in a recreational sport. To “play it safe,” pre-season conditioning should include aerobic exercise, walking, cycling, or jogging for 30 minutes, at least four times a week. It’s also important to include a minimum of 15 to 20 minutes of weight training twice a week to get back into shape.
Runners of all types are susceptible to a host of injuries, the most common being muscular strains and tendonitis. The most common types of running-related injuries seen by physical medicine and rehabilitation physicians are: runner’s knee, iliotibial band syndrome, shin splints, Achilles tendinitis, and heel pain related to plantar fasciitis.
To help prevent injury, Dr. Martinez-Silvestrini suggests individuals should take it slow, and for avid runners to change their footwear every six months or every 300 running miles.
Safety for kids
He also suggests that children who sign up for school sports, or even adults who have been inactive for a while, get a general physical exam to make sure their bodies are in good shape to begin playing sports.
According to Safe Kids of Western Mass., headquartered at Baystate Children’s Hospital, each year more than 30 million children participate in sports in the United States and more than 3.5 million children ages 14 and under are treated for sports injuries. While collision and contact sports are associated with higher rates of injury, injuries from individual sports tend to be more severe.
Dr. Martinez-Silvestrini noted the most common types of sport-related injuries in children are concussions, sprains (mostly ankle), muscle strains, bone or growth plate injuries, tendonitis and contusions, although more serious injuries, such as fractures, ligament or tendon tears may also occur.
Safe Kids of Western Massachusetts offers the following precautions to help keep kids safe while playing sports outdoors:
- Always wear appropriate protective gear for the activity — for practice as well as games — and make sure it’s the right size and properly adjusted.
- Make sure responsible adults know and enforce the safety rules of the sport, are present to provide supervision, and are trained in first aid and CPR.
- If you are playing outside, wear SPF 15 or higher sunscreen.
- Follow the rules. In most sports, the rules are based not only on sportsmanship, but safety.
- Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water or electrolyte sports drinks before and during the activity, and rest frequently during hot weather.
Dr. Martinez-Silvestrini emphasized never to play through an injury.
“Get immediate help from a coach or trainer and be sure to mention everything that hurts or aches. All coaches, whether for adult or kids sports, should have a plan for dealing with emergencies,” Dr. Martinez-Silvestrini said.