Playing it safe – prevent injuries during exercise and sports

  • Published
  • By Kellie Jensen
  • Fitness Program manager
Ever heard the saying "no pain, no gain"? When it comes to sports and fitness injuries, pain is going to set you back, not help you gain a competitive edge or increase your fitness goals.

As you are exercising or competing, be mindful of these tips to help prevent injuries and keep your body in top shape.

Stay hydrated: Dehydration is a major cause of fatigue, poor performance, decreased coordination and muscle cramping. By drinking 12 to 16 ounces of water prior to exercise and drinking water every 15 to 30 minutes while you exercise can increase your performance and delay fatigue and muscle pain.

Warm up properly: Warming up your muscles before you use them can greatly decrease the risk of injury. When warming up, choose an activity that mimics the movement you'll use in your exercise or competition. Research has shown that stretching prior to exercise or competition does not decrease the risk of injury. Warming up, however, does. Be sure to include it in your fitness or sports routine.

Add strength training to your exercise regimen: A strong body doesn't consist of only strong muscles. When you weight train, you also strengthen your tendons, connective tissues and bones, areas that are susceptible to injury. Fatigue and muscle weakness cause most injuries. By adding strength training to your routine, you can help prevent these types of injuries.

Maintain equipment: Many injuries can be prevented by insuring you have equipment that is in good condition and safe to use. Shoes, helmets and other equipment should be replaced if worn out or broken.

Wear proper clothing for weather conditions: In the summer, wear clothing that allows your skin to breathe and cool itself off. Wear sunscreen to avoid burning your skin. In the winter, wear layers of loose-fitting clothing. Prevent heat loss by wearing a hat and gloves and protecting your extremities.

Proper technique: Doing an exercise incorrectly is a sure-fire way to injure yourself. When working out, use the resources available to you, such as the Fitness Center staff, to ensure you are not risking that chance of injury by performing exercises incorrectly.

Unfortunately, injuries can sometimes occur despite our precautions. When treating injuries, such as sprains, strains or other muscle or joint injuries, practice the RICE principle: Rest, Ice, Compress, and Elevate.
Rest the injury for 48 to 72 hours. This allows the area to heal without the risk of more injury. Ice the injured area for 20 to 30 minutes at a time. The ice reduces the blood flow to the injured area, limiting swelling. Compression, such as an Ace bandage, on the injured area will help reduce swelling. Elevate the injury above heart level to reduce swelling.

If the injury is severe, see your primary medical provider.