It is all too common for people to jump back into playing a sport after a period of inactivity, or to start one without the right training. This sets people up for injury.
Medical advisor Jorge Iván Palacio Uribe, sports medicine doctor
Saying “yes” to exercise is important, but it should be well done. Sound obvious? Not always, especially for those who want to leave their sedentary lifestyles behind, and haphazardly get out on the street or go to the gym without a plan or clear idea of what they should do or how to begin. The consequences of this will not take long to arise, and what is worse, they will be very painful.
“What you often find with patients that play sports as beginners, is that they rush too fast into activities like walking, bike riding or jogging. The problem is that these people have not been active for many years, and so they begin, but their muscles are ill-fit for the exercise,” states Jorge Iván Palacio Uribe, physician with the Obesity, Metabolism and Sports Unit at the Las America’s Clinic.
In cases like these, most doctor’s visits are the result of joint, muscle and tendon pain. Consider the following example: a patient begins to jog because he or she was told to exercise, but had never exercised before. When beginning the routine, the patient starts to feel pain, “This happens because the person does not have enough strength, which puts too much weight on the unfit muscle. So even if they are going for a light jog, they end up injuring themselves.”
Those that choose to play soccer may pull their muscles or get tendonitis if they do not have the physical condition to play. Even more serious, they may get knee injuries and tear their anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) or damage their meniscus. Those that dust off their bikes and go all out from the start may develop tendinopathies due to a lack of strength, causing knee pain or pain behind the leg.
Athletes that exercise more regularly, yet are not high-performance athletes, may overexert themselves. “They do not have a specific plan and overdo themselves all the time because they saw something on the internet, a friend told them about something or they follow someone on social networks that gave a recommendation. This is how the body becomes fatigued,”, states Dr. Palacio.
Prior to beginning physical activity, it is important to see a specialist to plan how you will retrain yourself and return to the sport of your choice the right way.
A good warmup is key: “For those that jog, walk briskly for 5 to 10 minutes before starting. For those that play soccer, begin with a light jog and do joint movements. Warmups increase your body temperature to prepare these muscles and tendons to work”.
Part of your routine should also include a cooldown, which generally consists of stretches and other movements to gain flexibility. Cooldowns are often not implemented because people think they are not necessary.
One of Dr. Palacio’s tips is for people to be wary of fitness trends. “Many pop-up CrossFit gyms are bringing us many injuries… It’s a problem because some people just see this as a business and don’t care about people’s health.” In cases like this, spine and shoulder injuries are common when people lift heavy items, such as tires or weights, without proper training.
Dr. Palacio also warns of another issue: any time you begin to feel pain, you should stop and see your physician. “Let’s say a patient has Achilles tendinitis and has to take anti-inflammatories and do physical therapy. They take the medication, the pain goes away and then they think they do not need physical therapy. They go back to doing the exercise again, as if nothing ever happened. The pain starts again, but the patient ignores it and continues. Suddenly, at a game, they feel an intense pain: they weren’t careful, they pull their tendon, the injury is now more serious and they end up in surgery.” So, the cure is not worse than the disease. Stay active, but take necessary precautions and get the right advice.
Things to remember
Prior to beginning a sports activity, seek medical advice to be sure your muscles are in the right condition and that you have enough strength and flexibility to engage in the activity.
As people age, osteoarthritic changes may occur and joints and muscles may undergo degenerative processes. When routines are recommended, this should be part of the analysis.
Patients with hip or knee osteoarthritis, or patients who have degenerative disc disease resulting from a back injury, should follow exercise routines that are appropriate for their condition in order to avoid new conditions from developing.
1% of the muscle mass of people that don’t exercise is lost each year after age 30.