Athletes need to ease into exercise

 

DOVER –– As summer winds down and school begins, many students will be returning to a more active lifestyle, especially student athletes. Unfortunately, the body doesn’t remain in peak physical condition without regular exercise, so athletes are more susceptible to injury in the early weeks of returning to game-ready condition.

Many fall sport athletes will be attending preseason conditioning before school begins which help curtail injuries, but athletes should still use caution while getting in shape.

“Stretching is very important and can help prevent a lot of injuries,” Dr. Gabriel Lewullis, an orthopedic surgeon said.

He recommends dynamic (active) stretching before practicing or training to loosen up muscles and joints and static (stationary) stretching after exercise.

“Dynamic stretching can be anything low impact, whether it’s jumping or jogging. It’s okay to break a sweat before you get on the field,” Dr. Lewullis said. “Dynamic stretching will help reduce injuries when done before exercise because it gets the blood pumping while static stretching hasn’t shown to do much when done before exercising.”

But static stretching should take between five and 10 minutes after exercise as part of a cool down.

As important as stretching to prevent injury is staying hydrated.

“When an athlete becomes dehydrated they may begin to have camps in their legs, calves, stomach, hamstrings, and quads,” Dr. Lewullis said.

Staying hydrated prevents cramping, lubricates joints, regulates body temperature and allows for better blood circulation to all major organs.

The American Council on Exercise recommends that athletes drink about 17 to 20 ounces of water two to three hours before beginning exercise and continuing to stay hydrated throughout the duration of exercise.

Lastly, athletes should not take on too much exercise too quickly because the body needs time to develop endurance and strength.

Dr. Lewullis suggests following the 10 percent rule. The rule means activity should only increase by about 10 percent each week. Some student athletes may need to begin training a couple weeks before preseason if they haven’t gotten much exercise over the summer.

“During the first week of practice there is an increase of injuries,” he said. “Often, the injuries occur because no preparation was done before starting back with their fall season practices.”

Rest is also important while getting in shape to allow muscles time to recover before continuing activity.

The most common injuries Dr. Lewullis sees while sports seasons are ramping up are muscle strains and ligament sprains.

Recovery time for each injury varies depending on the severity which grades from one to three with one being a mild injury and three, a severe injury.

“These type of injuries can be tended to by an athletic trainer, that’s their specialty,” he said.

But sometimes, more serious attention may be needed for sports injuries.

“If it’s a serious injury, specifically if you hear a pop or crack and are unable to put weight on it, you need to visit a doctor or the emergency room for an x-ray,” Dr. Lewullis said.

If your student athlete suffers a mild injury like a strain or sprain, have them visit the school’s athletic trainer for an evaluation and treatment but for a serious injury, follow Dr. Lewullis’ advice to see a physician or visit the E.R.

Reach staff writer Ashton Brown at abrown@newszap.com. Follow @AshtonReports on Twitter.

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