Treat Your Body like a Temple…a Sturdy, Strong, Athletic Temple!
According to dictionary.com, the definition of “preventive” is “to hinder or attempt to keep from occurring.” In today’s world, thanks to technological and medical advances we are able to prevent diseases, illnesses and more severe injuries. In sports and fitness, in many cases, being able to prevent something can be the difference between a career and finding a new profession…the difference between months of rehabilitation, or adding an extra workout into your routine a few times a week.
There are many types of preventive care that can benefit athletes and fitness enthusiasts. Whether it comes in the form of conditioning a joint like your knee to strengthen the surrounding muscles of treating a minor injury so it doesn’t increase in severity, like a concussion or sprained ankle or simply taking a break so your body has proper time to heal, this type of care is crucial to success and to better health.
Conditioning and rehabilitating:
Just like there are specific workout routines for your abdominals or glutes, there are workouts to strengthen your ankles, knees, hip flexors – you name it! There are exercises to strengthen muscles that surround areas prone to injury or that you feel you might need a little extra security.
Many (not all) ligament tears and strains can be guarded against, or even prevented, through conditioning and rehabilitation. With the use of simple exercise equipment like resistance bands, yoga blocks and step-up boxes, you can do a few simple workouts throughout the week that will ultimately make these types of injury less likely.
This is a topic where I can truly say I know what I am talking about. I wish I could grab 12-year-old me and shake her by her stubborn shoulders and scream “get a resistance band, do some ankle inversions!” As mentioned in the first post, I was cursed with loose ankles. I rolled them pretty consistently since a young age but the idea of physical therapy made me cringe, so I would slather them in IcyHot and keep kicking.
During my time with Florida Orthopedic Institute, some of the more helpful conditioning and rehab techniques I learned were:
1) Squats: It is important to keep your knees from bowing in or out during your repetitions. Bowing either way is a sign that the muscles around your knees are weak. If you feel yourself doing it, simply slow down and try completing the exercise in front of a mirror. Sometimes practicing in front of a mirror makes all the difference! For extra work, try using a rocking board or standing on a bosu ball, or half yoga ball (round side down).
2) Knee-Heel touch: For this one, you will need a box, a block – just something to stand on with one foot. If your balance challenged like me, set yourself up next to a wall or rail so you can hold yourself steady. Hold one foot in the air off the block and bend your support knee until the heel of your other foot hits the floor. Make sure, again, your knee doesn’t bow in or out.
Keeping your injury minor, so you can get to the majors:
“Suck it up!” “Push through it!” “Don’t be a baby!”
We’ve all heard something along those lines. It could’ve been a coach, your parents, heck it could have been in your own head.
There are some types of injury where just taking it easy during a workout is enough. Minor stiffness, injuries that aren’t swollen or bumps and contusions fall into that category. However, there are some times when you really shouldn’t push it.
Way back when, when our parents all trudged uphill six or eight or however many miles in the snow or pouring rain to school, helmets were not always considered mandatory equipment. Today, even sports that are not considered contact sports require the use of specific, uniform helmets, to prevent serious harm to athletes. Even with their use, the risk of injury still exists. Concussions are a common occurrence in most sports, but should not be taken lightly. This is definitely one of those injuries where you should just take a break. Well, and see a doctor.
For the most part, sports require athletes to sit out and abstain from playing when they are diagnosed with a concussion. I know for Taekwondo, athletes are not allowed to fight for a minimum of 30 days. This is to prevent secondary concussion syndrome, or second-impact syndrome (SIS).
SIS can occur when someone with a concussion, no matter how mild the grade, is hit again, causing the brain to swell rapidly. The impact causes massive cerebral edema and is often fatal, or causes lasting disabilities. SIS is very common in young athletes, and has caused major organizations, including the NFL, to alter their concussion protocol. While one of the main ways to prevent SIS is giving the brain ample time to recover after a concussion, technological advances are also being utilized. Some high schools are now using an iPad and computer application called Cleveland Clinic Concussion App 3 or C3. The app uses basic memorization and cognitive practices to create a baseline for athletes. If the athlete is injured and there is a chance of concussion, the athlete retakes the baseline test and the application measures the tests against each other. While it is not 100%, any strides made to protect our brains are good ones!
Another time you really should put your feet up and relax is when you strain or pull a muscle. Often, people make the mistake of trying to push through a pulled muscle and this can result in a tear. Instead, it’s best to ice the area, elevate it above your head (it will prevent throbbing—you’ll thank me) and take some naproxen or an anti-inflammatory.
Now go…take your rehabbing-expertise out into the world. Buy a Bosu Ball, buy some instant ice-packs, and be safe! Take care of your body and it will work for you. Refuse to listen to your body and well…you’ll blow out your ankle.