It’s the bane of the athlete’s existence: The ongoing threat of injury. When a season-ending back injury pulls you out of the game, the frustration can be just as torturous as the pain itself. Fortunately, a lot of these injuries can be prevented simply by being proactive and taking a few precautions. Let’s look at a few common-sense ways athletes can avoid back injuries.
One of the most common causes of athletic injuries is simply skipping the warm-up. When muscles, joints and ligaments don’t have enough blood flow due to lack of movement, they are stiff, inflexible and more likely to tear. Take the time to do some warm-up exercises and gentle stretches before working out or getting in the game. (Keep the stretches gentle — you don’t want to cause injury by overdoing these, either.) You’ll reduce your risk of back injury significantly by doing so.
The muscles surrounding and supporting your spine are your greatest defense against back injury. When these muscles are strong and flexible, they serve as a sort of shock absorber against impacts, making it more difficult to injure your back. Be sure to incorporate some exercises into your workout designed to strengthen these core muscles. Talk to your doctor or physical therapist to discover which types of exercises would help you most.
If you only do one type of sport or exercise, and you do it constantly, you run the risk of developing a Repetitive Motion Disorder (RMD) — that is, injury to a set of muscles due to constant repetitive use. (Tennis elbow and tendonitis are good examples.) Your back can suffer from similar types of injuries if you put it through the exact same stresses day after day. The best way to avoid this is to diversify your activities. Take up a couple of other sports or exercises, maybe not competitively but for fun, just to change up the way your body moves and to provide more balance to your muscle groups overall.
Whatever protective gear your sport calls for — wear it diligently. Don’t play contact sports like hockey or football without a proper helmet and protective padding. The gear is there to protect your body’s vulnerabilities and reduce the risk of injury.
Believe it or not, simple healthy habits like a balanced diet, plenty of sleep and staying hydrated can go a long way toward protecting you from athletic back injuries. Your muscles and tissues thrive on proper nutrients, they stay flexible with proper hydration, and they regenerate while you sleep. Adopt a balanced, healthy lifestyle, and your risk for injury goes down.
Of course, all athletic activity comes with some risk of injury, and adopting these practices won’t completely eliminate the risk — but they can certainly reduce the risk significantly and help you become a stronger, better athlete in the process. If you do sustain a back injury, we’re here to help with a wide range of treatment options. Call Polaris Spine and Neurosurgery Center at 404-256-2633 to learn more.