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For the Love of the Game

Spring sports beckon Texans to the court, diamond or green. Bring your “A” game with regular conditioning and prompt attention to sports injuries.

Injury prevention can save the time and cost of treatment as well as missed time playing favorite sports, such as baseball, golf and tennis. To help reduce your risk for sports-related injuries, make these four recommendations part of your spring lineup:

1. Annual physical to determine fitness for physical activity

2. Conditioning to prepare for the physical demands of the sport

3. Eating foods with adequate nutrients

4. Warming up and cooling down

“Many of my patients who play sports complain of knee and ankle pain because they are not stretching their hamstrings, Achilles tendons, iliotibial bands, quadriceps and hip flexor muscles effectively,” says Hal Welch, P.T., D.P.T., senior sports physical therapist at Texas Health Harris Methodist Outpatient Center Burleson. “We know through research that a 10-minute warm-up raises core temperature, increases blood flow and allows muscles to contract and relax more easily, priming the body for the demands of sports. If you are serious about athletics, you should also be stretching throughout the day to take pressure off the knees.”

Nearly three-fourths of baseball-related injuries occur in players ages 18 and younger. Soft-tissue injuries — such as bruises, muscle pulls and sprains — are common, as well as overuse injuries to the shoulder and elbow for pitchers.

Wearing recommended safety gear can help players reduce their risk for fractures when coming in contact with the ball, bat or other players. Parents of Little Leaguers can reduce their children’s risk for injury by not allowing year-round play and limiting the number of teams on which they compete. Pitch counts and mandatory rest periods for players ages 7 to 18 were revised in 2011 to address the alarming increase in elbow and shoulder injuries in young pitchers.

The repetitive motion of a golf swing or tennis serve can cause pain and tenderness in the tendons of the wrist, forearm, elbow and shoulder. Golfers may experience numbness in the hand, carpal tunnel syndrome or tendonitis in the wrist, as well as back and knee pain.

Most sports injuries can be fully resolved after a period of rest or conservative treatment options, including:

• ACE™ bandage or elastic sleeve

• Functional evaluation for proper mechanics

• Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications

• Therapy exercises to improve flexibility and strength

“Playing through the pain probably will do more harm than good,” says Welch. “Rather than giving up a sport that is causing pain, talk with a sports physical therapist who can identify risk factors and improve mechanics to reduce your potential for future injury and keep you in the game.”

While the majority of sports-related injuries can be treated without surgical intervention, surgery might be the right option for acute injuries or those that will not heal with conservative treatment. Arthroscopy is a minimally invasive procedure using a flexible fiber optic camera that allows surgeons to diagnose and treat injured joints, including the ankle, elbow, hip, knee, shoulder and wrist, through small, button-sized holes.

Arthroscopy can be used to treat:

• Bone fragments and spurs

• Inflamed joint linings

• Scar tissue within joints

• Torn cartilage

“Arthroscopy can be a valuable minimally invasive technique for sports-related injuries such as torn rotator cuffs common in throwing athletes, tennis players and golfers,” says Katherine Coyner, M.D., orthopedic surgeon specializing in sports medicine on the medical staff at Texas Health Arlington Memorial Hospital. “Arthroscopy offers patients better cosmetic results, less pain, shorter hospital stays and faster recovery times than conventional open surgery.”

For more information about orthopedics, visit TexasHealth.org/Orthopedics.

(Spring 2012)

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