By Diane Mullen
Many of you know the feeling… Oh, it’s winter, I shall ski now! Or, oh, it’s spring, I shall play soccer (or for some, run as far as possible from those playing soccer). Whatever your seasonal interests when it comes to sports, it is important to remind yourself that your body may not be up to speed with your current impulse to play!
Play is good. Of course, as Physical Therapists we always encourage being active and playing to your heart’s content, but we also encourage you to be smart and give your body a chance to play without injury or strain. It is never fun to get started doing something you enjoy, only to be injured and then be limited maybe in more than just sports.
Here are some basic tips: think about the sport and what is most involved. For instance, skiing/snowboarding uses a lot of quad strength (front of your thighs), ankle strength, and hip/core strength. It is always a good idea to do some cardiovascular and strengthening exercises 2-3 months ahead of time so that your body is less likely to fatigue. Many injuries occur due to fatigue or muscle weakness.
If you can identify the main muscles involved in a sport, you can prepare them and allow yourself to be less prone for sports injury. Soccer involves cardiovascular fitness, as well as a lot of quad/hamstring, hip, and ankle strength. Ankle sprains are a common injury in soccer, most times rolling the ankle inward (lateral ankle sprain), so it is also helpful to strengthen the muscles that would prevent this direction of sports injury. This is called ankle eversion strengthening and can be done pretty easily with a resistance band. Balance activities are another area of training, which can prevent falls/sprains with both skiing and soccer, as well as many other sports.
If this all takes the fun out of picking up a sport when you feel like it, then don’t think of it that way, so much as just keeping yourself in good fitness so you can play without wearing out so quickly and with less sports injury risk. In the end, the main thing is to give your body the best chance at doing whatever sport/activity you like, and exercise and a little forethought is a key component in achieving this!