Robert Pedowitz, M.D., Ph.D., Chief of the Sports Medicine Service for UCSD Healthcare’s Department of Orthopaedic Surgery expects to see a fair number of sports injuries this summer but says that doesn’t have to be the case. Pedowitz has several suggestions sports enthusiasts can follow to prevent common injuries and avoid a visit to the orthopedist.
“Probably the most important thing people can do to prevent all types of injuries,” he says “is to condition before they participate in activities and do it regularly. That means staying in shape with flexibility and strength and cardiovascular fitness.”
Pedowitz says specialists with the UCSD Department of Orthopaedic Surgery typically see overuse injuries brought on when weekend warriors who are inactive during the workweek go out and push the limits on the weekend. “They’re very sore on Monday and Tuesday, recover later in the week, then go out and do it again the following weekend. Eventually that leads to injury because they’re not conditioned.”
The department regularly sees overuse injuries in specific sports such as tennis and golf. “Those are definitely problems that can be avoided with the right conditioning, again strength and flexibility training. With these two sports, there is another nuance to consider, and that’s technique,” he adds. “Some tennis players and golfers are very conditioned but there’s a problem with their stroke. They need to invest some time with a good tennis coach or golf pro who can help them make sure they are using proper technique. That can significantly decrease injuries such as lower back pain in golfers.”
The same can be applied to swimming which often leads to shoulder damage. He says a good rotator cuff conditioning program can be a good investment as well as working with a coach to identify ways to change a stroke to lessen injury.
One would think bicycling, with the exception of falling off, would be a fairly injury-free sport, but not so, says Pedowitz. “Gear has an impact,” he warns. “The way a seat and toe clips are configured can affect the likelihood of developing a problem like bursitis around the knee. An easy way to avoid this injury is for riders to take their bikes to a good shop where the mechanic can properly adjust the seat height, pedal configurations and other equipment they may be using.”
Runners are frequent visitors to Pedowitz’s clinic and for good reason. He sees lots of knee and foot problems, particularly in his female patients. Women suffer stress fractures more frequently than men, he says. Because of their lower bone density women are more prone to injury. Not surprisingly, people training for marathons and triathlons also regularly visit Pedowitz’s office.
“We see lots of errors in training strategy, that’s really common,” he says. “For example, the runner is used to running three miles at a time and all of a sudden jumps it up to eight miles. That’s a training error. Your body responds to stress at a certain rate, everyone’s body responds differently. Some people can train up very fast and others can’t. They need to go more slowly.”
Another key, albeit simple way he advises to avoid injury when running or walking is to wear properly fitting shoes and to replace them before the shock absorption wears out. He advises spending time with a good shoe professional who can properly fit runners and walkers for their individual foot physiology, such as flat feet or high arches.
Finally, Pedowitz advises people to be smart and be careful with their activity selection. Choosing a sport within your abilities and skill level is key to staying injury-free, he says. “Don’t pick a sport that’s too risky or beyond your skill level. People who try downhill mountain biking who aren’t skilled at it or novice surfers who attempt large waves beyond their capability, are going to get hurt,” he cautions.
For more information on sports injury prevention or to make an appointment with UCSD Healthcare’s Sports Medicine Service in the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, call 858-657-8200.
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