National Sports Injuries

Working as a physical therapist in a hospital near a ski area gives me lots of exposure to ski accidents and major injuries. They can be really scary and life changing. We risk our lives doing sports, yet we are in danger every day when driving a car and being in public places. Quality of life is so important and typically outweighs the chance of getting hurt.  

The CDC regularly publishes data about injury in sports and recreation. According to the National Health Statics Reports published in 2016, here is the estimated number of yearly sports injuries:

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Use of GPS Watches and Activity Trackers

The use of GPS watches in sports has significantly grown over the past few years. There is a watch for almost any type of exercise. There are models for the obvious: running, hiking, cycling, and swimming. However, they also have specific versions for other sports such as golf and diving. The number of companies producing these watches is also huge: Garmin, Polar, Fitbit, Apple, Samsung, TomTom, and New Balance, just to name a few. The options are endless, and almost every endurance athlete owns one. Occasionally, I will see a runner with a standard watch that only has a clock and stopwatch, but the vast majority of runners have GPS watches tracking their data.   

I have a Garmin Forerunner 220 for running. The watch is middle of the road in terms of the options it provides, and it still does far more than I will ever use. Here are my favorite features:

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Muscle Soreness and Recovery

Everyone has been sore before – perhaps you completed a big run or hike, went skiing for a whole day, did too much shoveling, lifted heavier weights at the gym, or simply tried a new exercise. Delayed-Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) is muscle tenderness caused be exercise peaking approximately 24 to 48 hours after completing the exercise. The severity of DOMS is variable depending on the intensity and duration of exercise, your individual conditioning level, your age, and the specific exercise/activity that was done. DOMS can last for a week or two, but it usually dissipates after a few days.

DOMS is more likely after completing eccentric activities than concentric. Eccentric exercise is when force is applied as a muscle lengthens – for example, walking down a hill or lowering a heavy weight. Eccentrics can be thought of as putting on the breaks and controlling against gravity. Concentric exercise is when force is applied as the muscle contracts – for example, lifting weight up during a biceps curl or leg extension. Eccentric contractions are more demanding on our muscles than concentric. For runners, this helps explain why you would have more muscle soreness after the Boston marathon (a net downhill race) verses a relatively flat marathon.

Here are the best ways to decrease muscle soreness and speed up recovery:

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Post-Exercise Stretching

Before exercising, you want to do an active warm-up to get blood flowing into your muscles. After exercising, you want to do static stretching because your muscles are loose and it is a prime time to gain flexibility. If you stretch a cold muscle, you can easily strain it and injure yourself. Stretching after exercise decreases your risk of injury and helps minimize stiffness. Stretching helps prevent your muscles from becoming too tight and pulling on areas that could result in injury. Quad tendonitis is often caused by tight quads pulling on the knees where they attach. Similarly, achilles tendonitis is often caused by tight calves pulling on the back of the ankle where they attach. Stretching is also a great way to end your exercise routine because it is relaxing and facilitates your heart in coming back down to it's resting rate.  

Below is my favorite post-run stretching routine. It hits all the major lower body muscle groups and leaves you feeling great. Hold each exercise for 20-30 seconds. Do not push to the point of pain or discomfort. Make sure you are gentle and not aggressive. The order is not too important, but this is the sequencing I prefer.

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Walk-Jog Progression and Why I Love Running

When returning to running after 4+ weeks off or when starting running, the best approach is to use a walk-jog program. Below is a list of progressions with each walk-jog about 30 minutes total. The workouts should be performed every other day, advancing to the next stage only when you are conformable (and pain free) with the previous one. It is okay to repeat certain stages or revert back to the previous stage if it is too hard. Try not to skip stages, even if you are feeling good - the body needs time to ease into it. Before starting, make sure you can easily walk 30+ minutes continuously without difficulty. 

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My Knee Injury

On December 31st, 2017, I went for a 7 mile run with drills and strides. In my training log I wrote “-7 degrees feels like -23 degrees.” That is cold. The roads were snow covered and the treadmill was calling my name, but I wanted to be outside.    

The next day, January 1st, 2018, I was faced with similar conditions. It was -13 degrees, and I continued to have poor footing due to the cold snowy conditions. By the end of the 30 minute easy run, I had developed a nagging knee pain. I shrugged it off until I went to run again the following day. I decided to use the treadmill this time, but the knee pain became intensely sharp and stabbing less than 5 minutes into my run. My body told me to stop, so I listened. Even though there was no swelling or specific trauma, I knew it was serious.

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