UPMC column summer sports safety - Dr. Ronald Campbell head shot

Ronald Campbell, MD

Now that the summer weather is here, it seems easy to jump right into athletic activity and pick up right where you left off last year. Unfortunately, over 3.5 million people in the U.S. suffer sports related injuries each year, with a large portion during the summer months. If the body is not properly trained, fueled, and protected, you could be stuck at home healing instead of enjoying the sport you love.

Some common injuries that occur during the summer are:

· Ankle sprains

· Bone Fractures

· Overuse injuries

· Bicycle injuries

· Shoulder injuries

· Back injuries

These injuries can occur in the most competitive intramural leagues to the easy going and “relaxing” family picnic. This makes having the awareness about injury prevention methods key to your summer health. As someone who grew up enjoying summer sports and activities, I know how difficult it is to stay healthy over time.  

Here are some ways you can take the offense and stay healthy this summer:

· Hydration: Although it may seem cliché, hydration is key. Someone can be in the best shape of their life and extremely talented, but when it comes to competition and physical activity your body will be limited by dehydration. Drinking enough water and sports drinks will prevent you from cramping up or pulling a muscle. Make sure your body is hydrated well before you exercise, staying hydrated throughout your exercise, and re-hydrating after you are done.

· Listen to Your Body: The common phrase of “trust your gut” applies to injury prevention. If your body is telling you to take a break, tell those around you to take a quick water break or take time for a cool down lap. Ignoring a tight calf muscle could lead to cramping or eventually to a pulled muscle. Ignoring your body’s signs completely could sideline you for a couple weeks or months, instead of a couple minutes. 

· Flexibility: The best defense is a good offense. Flexibility is critical to staying in the game. Begin working on your flexibility sooner than later. The body is made to handle to stress and reactions of our daily motions, but doing things your body isn’t used to can cause injuries if you do not train it. For example, the shoulder isn’t naturally accustomed to throwing pitches every day, but with proper stretching before and after, your body will adjust and be able to handle the new stress you are creating.

· Conditioning and Stamina: The body needs to be prepared for the task you’re asking it to complete. If you enjoy soccer, then start with some cardio such as light jogging, and work on your coordination by dribbling, shooting, and kicking a ball. Starting with the basics will

gradually increase your stamina so you can build up to match conditioning. Strength is also important for stamina. In football, strength is needed to get off blocks or to sprint past a defender, and that’s why it’s important to consider weight training designed for your activity. By doing various exercises such as pushups, bench press, and squat, you can train your whole body for the demands of your sport – and don’t forget about strengthening you core muscles such as your abs and back. 

Without proper training, your body will not be able to properly adjust to the activity you are doing and could result in injury. 

Stay healthy this summer so you can continue to enjoy the sport you love. If you have an injury or are concerned you are not taking effective measures to stay healthy, talk to your trainer or physician. They can help you develop a plan to address your specific workout, training, dietary, and other wellness needs.

Ronald Campbell, MD is an orthopedic surgeon specializing in sports medicine at UPMC Susquehanna. Dr. Campbell earned his medical degree from Howard University College of Medicine and completed his residency with Howard University Hospital in Washington, D.C.