Source: National Athletic Trainers' Association

DALLAS, January 28, 2014 – With the Super Bowl just days away and the Olympics kicking off next week, February is turning out to be a super month for sports. And, with dangerously cold weather wreaking havoc across the country, aficionados of either event may be motivated to try new activities with renewed energy and commitment.

 

“Just watching these events can serve as a tremendous inspiration to shape up, change or start a physical activity or sports regimen,” says National Athletic Trainers’ Association President Jim Thornton, MA, ATC, CES. “So many of us across the country have been cooped up by this sub-freezing season and are ready to get outside and champion what we’ve been seeing on the elite playing field.”

Most important though, says Thornton, is using good common sense, starting slowly with a new routine, or increasing participation with moderation to ensure the body has acclimatized to the new activity.

In an effort to ensure all of us are smart when it comes to sports participation, the National Athletic Trainers’ Association has issued a set of winter workout guidelines sure to guide you from Sochi right into spring.

NATA’s Sports Safety Tips to Keep Athletes Fit for All Seasons

1.       Acclimate to new (or old) activities slowly: Whether organizing a pick-up football game after months of not tossing the ball; or stepping into skies and heading to the slopes, start slowly. All athletes need time to adjust to new activities, use new muscles and challenge their physical and mental selves to perform at their best. Gentle stretches before and after activity can also help to warm up and cool down.

2.       Get a pre-participation exam: “Anyone enjoying a new activity should have a pre-participation exam to determine their readiness to play and uncover any condition that may limit participation,” says Thornton. “If the individual has any pre-existing conditions, it’s important to share that with his or her doctor for review and to determine activities that are appropriate.”

3.       Beat the weather: If you are in hot or cold winter environments, your body needs time to adjust to temperature, which can take from several days and up to two weeks. Dress accordingly (in breathable layers for either condition) and allow for this acclimatization as you map out your physical activity or sports schedule.

4.       Practice your nutrition know-how: Eating a balanced diet and ensuring adequate water breaks before during and after participation is vital to a complete and healthy workout plan.

5.       Take it to heart: Health clubs, gyms and other work out environments today should have automated external defibrillators (AEDs) on-site which if used efficiently and effectively can save a life and stave off a catastrophic situation. Ensure that the medical expert on-site and/or other personnel know where they are located, how to use them and that they are placed on sidelines during competitions and games.

6.       Use Your Head: If you’ve experienced a hit to the head during participation, and are having any concussion-like symptoms (lightness of head, dizziness, lack of balance), sit down and take a time out. Check with your physician immediately if symptoms continue.

7.      Build in rest time and listen to your body: Allow time for the body to rest and rejuvenate in between activities. “If you’ve started a new regimen or been doing a lot of one type of activity such as running, mix it up,” says Thornton. “Take a rest day and then try swimming or weight lifting or a sport that uses different muscles to avoid repetitive motion.” And, if you experience injury or feel a “ping” or “popping sound” stop activity completely and consult a physician for best diagnosis.

8.       Pay attention to sport specific injury prevention: “Football, skiing, or skating are all sports requiring lots of twists, turns and quick motion and even at the recreational level,” says Thornton. "These movements put added stress on the anterior cruciate ligament or ACL, one of four ligaments necessary for proper knee stability and function. Sudden movements or rigorous activity can significantly increase the chances of an ACL tear, a common injury among athletes – especially in females. “Increase power, agility and range of motion through stretching exercises that improve flexibility; braces to help control joint movement if necessary; and drills to strengthen the quadriceps, and other leg, hip, pelvic and core muscles.”

9.       Ensure equipment is in working order: Make sure all equipment you may use for sports participation is in safe and working order. If you’re dusting off your sneakers for a winter run in the park; trying your snow shoes for a nice walk in the snow; or wiping down the bike for an inaugural 2014 ride, make sure they are in safe, working order and not worn or torn from the prior season’s wear and tear. All it takes is a slip on a wet surface or twist of an ankle on an ungroomed field or course to lead to lower extremity injuries, among others.

10.   Check that locker rooms, gyms and shower surfaces are clean: With the advent of MRSA and related bacterial, viral and fungal skin infections reported in recent years, it is critical to keep these surfaces routinely cleaned and checked for germs. Gym or spa-goers must be discouraged from sharing towels, athletic gear, water bottles, disposable razors and hair clippers. All clothing and equipment should be laundered and/or disinfected on a daily basis.

11.   Ask if the league or club has an emergency action plan: If you’re in a league or club environment, make sure the team has a written emergency action plan, reviewed by the athletic trainer or local Emergency Medical Service. Individual assignments and emergency equipment and supplies need to be included in the emergency action plan. If an athletic trainer is not employed by the club or league, qualified individuals need to be present to provide care.

 “By enjoying sports activity safely, all enthusiasts will gain the health benefits of participation,” says Thornton. “We will not only feel physically better, but the mental stimulation we get from individual or group participation will lift us right into spring.” 

About NATA: National Athletic Trainers’ Association
Athletic trainers are health care professionals who specialize in the prevention, diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation of injuries and sport-related illnesses. They prevent and treat chronic musculoskeletal injuries from sports, physical and occupational activity, and provide immediate care for acute injuries. Athletic trainers offer a continuum of care that is unparalleled in health care. The National Athletic Trainers' Association represents and supports 39,000 members of the athletic training profession. Visit www.nata.org.