How to avoid the summertime sports injury blues
BY JUDY OWEN
Winnipeg Health Region
Wave, Summer 2010
It's summertime, and business at the Pan Am
Clinic is brisk.
Clients are walking - or limping -
through the doors these days in increasing
numbers, all complaining of similar aches
and pains, usually the result of a sportrelated
In most cases, they are people who have
come out of winter hibernation, eager to
hit the courts or links, swing a bat, hop
on a bike or jog around a park, without
taking the time to properly warm up before
engaging in their favourite activity. The
result: muscle pulls and tears, knee pain
and stress fractures.
Mike Arbez, an athletic therapist at Pan
Am's Minor Injury Clinic has an explanation
for the summer rush. "I think a lot of
them feel fine before the activity," says
Arbez. "It's a time thing, especially for
golfers. I find that everyone gets very, very
rushed. The summers are so short that they
try to fit in as many things as they can and
they may run from the car to the first tee
box and grab a club out of the bag and just
give it a good rip. Next thing you know,
your back's sore, you hurt your shoulder."
Arbez, who is also an orthopedic
technologist, says warm-ups needn't be
arduous and generally take about 10 to
15 minutes before an activity. Usually, it
involves "dynamic stretches" that are sportspecific
to warm up the muscles and joints.
"It's not your typical static stretching,
where you try to stretch out your quadricep
muscles by pulling your heel toward your
bum or stretching your calf against a wall
for 15 or 20 seconds," Arbez says. "Those
are still great stretches to do to increase
your flexibility at the end of your activities
as your cool down."
The best way to warm up, says Arbez,
is to think about what motions your body
will be using in your activity. If you will be
running forward and backwards, shuffling
side to side, turning out your hips and
opening up, you need to warm up these
muscles and joints, get the blood flowing,
and boost the heart rate.
Arbez says people generally have a
tough time knowing how to warm up the
hips. "They come out of winter activities
and they have pretty weak hips, and all of
a sudden they're out there on these uneven
surfaces running and they're getting knee
pains and hip pains," he says.
It's also critical to be aware of the hazards around you when you take your activities
or exercises outdoors. He treats runners
for knee pain and stress fractures because
they don't recognize it's different to jog
on a treadmill compared to concrete or
asphalt. Also, watch out if you're running
on fields with gopher holes, a hazard that
sends clients his way with ankle sprains.
Runners should also set their treadmills
on a slight incline during the winter so
they'll be better prepared for an outdoor
landscape. And don't expect it'll be as easy
to run four kilometres outside as it is on
your treadmill. "Do two to three (kilometres)
and see how your body is doing. You'll
know more the next day how you're feeling,"
"It's actually much harder to run and
propel yourself while you're running
outside than it is to keep up with a moving
belt on a treadmill because that's already
pre-set for you. All you're doing is trying to
keep up with it, you're not really pushing
yourself like you would be if you run
Cyclists need to be aware that they may
not have the same balance as they did in
the fall after a long winter, causing them to
be susceptible to falls and trauma injuries
such as fractured wrists, he says. It's also
important cyclists do some maintenance
on their bikes - see if the chains are dusty,
if they need to be oiled and if the tires are
It's also a good idea to vary your activities.
Arbez says concentrating on the same
ones all the time means you're not working
all your muscles.
But even with all the advice out there
about the importance of warming up your
body, he won't be surprised if the clinic's
caseload continues to swell every spring.
And that really is too bad.
"Just taking 10 to 15 minutes for a bit
more dedicated warm-up time to prepare
themselves for activity will save them in
the long term - stop them from getting
any nagging injuries that might keep them
from away from enjoying those summer
months," Arbez says.
Judy Owen is a Winnipeg writer.
Wave is published six times a year by the Winnipeg Health Region in cooperation with the Winnipeg Free Press. It is available at newsstands, hospitals and clinics throughout Winnipeg, as well as McNally Robinson Books.
Read the Summer 2010 issue of Wave