Four common summer sports injuries and measures in preventing them

With summer finally upon us, it’s time to get outside. As the whole family begins to shake loose and get back to their favorite recreational activities, it’s important to keep an eye on safety at all times.

Here are a few of the most common summer sports injuries and ways you can avoid them.

Sprains and strains

Almost all of us have experienced a sprain or strain at some point, whether it be a pulled hamstring, sore shoulder or sprained ankle. Though these common injuries are similar, they aren’t interchangeable.

“A sprain involves the stretching or tearing of your ligaments, while a strain is the stretching or tearing of your muscles or tendons,” said Geisinger fellowship trained orthopaedic surgeon Dr. Harry Dinsmore. “All three are types of tissue, but have different functions in the body.”

Both strains and sprains can be prevented with proper stretching before physical activity or exercise. This makes the muscles, tendons and ligaments more flexible and less prone to tears.

Minor sprains and strains can be treated at home with ice to reduce swelling and an over-the-counter pain reliever like ibuprofen or acetaminophen. In more severe cases, your doctor may recommend a temporary brace or even surgery.

Bone fractures

Bone fractures are very common; there are millions of cases every year in the United States.

“Think of the bone like a tree branch,” Dinsmore said. “They are flexible and can take a beating, but with the pressure of a heavy snow or wind they finally break.”

But not all fractures are the same. There are a handful of different classifications, organized by severity and the type of break. For example, a transverse fracture occurs when a bone is broken in a straight line, and an oblique fracture is when the break is diagonal.

While accidents happen and sometimes there’s no avoiding a fracture, you can help to prevent a broken bone with proper diet and exercise. Diets rich in Vitamin D and calcium promote bone health, while weightbearing exercise strengthens the bones.

Muscle cramps

Cramps are every athlete’s enemy. This sudden, involuntary contraction of one or more muscles can happen without warning, especially when doing strenuous physical activity.

Muscle cramps have a variety of causes, including overuse, strain and improper diet, but can also be caused by dehydration — a common condition in the summer heat.

“Be sure to drink plenty of water while involved in physical activity, in addition to the recommended 15.5 cups a day for men and 11.5 cups for women, to keep yourself from cramping,” Dinsmore said.

Water also has numerous other health benefits to make each drop a little more refreshing.

Concussions

Concussions are traumatic brain injuries that come as a result of a sudden impact, causing the brain to shake within the skull. The condition’s prevalence in professional sports has captured the public’s attention over the past several years.

“Although certain sports — including football, soccer and hockey — are most associated with the condition, concussions can happen in any type of sport or recreational activity where there is impact,” Dinsmore said.

Symptoms of a concussion include drowsiness, headache, memory loss, balance problems and nausea, among others. The key to healing is complete rest for a specific period of time recommended by your doctor, though symptoms can persist for over a month. Your doctor may also recommend an MRI or CT scan to help diagnose the problem.

The simplest way to avoid a concussion is to wear a helmet while playing sports or riding a bike. Strengthening the neck and shoulder muscles also increase support for the head, cushioning the head and minimizing any shaking.

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This is one of a series of articles provided by Geisinger on health and sports.

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