Sports are a big part of the American lifestyle, as nearly 8 million high school-aged kids participated in at least one school sport last year. If you’re not playing a sport, odds are you’ve shuttled your fair share or kids to and from practices, or maybe you’re focusing on some of the more relaxing sports that draw fitness-minded individuals looking for a little less physical contact, like cycling, swimming or cross-country skiing.
The point is, millions of Americans partake in sporting events and athletic activity each and every day, and that activity can do a number on your joints. If you want to stay on the field, you’ll want to ensure you’re taking care of your joints off the field. Today, we share three tips for reducing sports-related joint injuries.
Sports and Your Joints
Keep these tips in mind to keep your joints in top shape before, during and after athletic activity.
1. Improve You Balance and Stability – A lot of coaches focus on fitness training, but oftentimes it comes in the form of running and weight lifting. Both of those activities are great ways to improve your fitness and strengthen the muscles, but sometimes your joints can get overlooked. One way to ensure your joints get the conditioning they need is by focusing on balance and stability training.
Sports like soccer, football and basketball all require the players to make quick, forceful turns at a moment’s notice, which can put a lot of pressure on your joints, especially if you are off-balance. Stability and balance training can help strengthen and protect your joints during these bouts of forceful movement. Consider investing in a balance board to train at home, and see if you can reach out to the school’s fitness staff or a trainer at your gym about some other exercises that can improve balance and stability.
2. Choose a Healthy Diet – Opting for a joint-friendly diet is another key way to help reduce sports-related joint pain. Although you likely aren’t going to be eating during a sporting event, your meal plan throughout the day can both hurt and help you during competition.
Some of the best diet choices that should find their way onto your plate each day are fresh fruits and veggies. These foods are filled with vitamins and minerals that act as natural anti-inflammatories, Additionally, omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids promote joint lubrication, which is critical for the range of motions you’ll be preforming during your sport.
Also, try to avoid junk foods. Although athletic activity will help you burn calories, eating a lot of unhealthy options can damage joints and leave you feeling lethargic.
3. Cross Train and Take Time Off
Lastly, and this can be difficult in today’s hyper-competitive sports environment, but it’s important to give your body some time off and consider alternate ways to train so you aren’t over-stressing the same joints on a regular basis. For example, if you play a sport like soccer or cross country, don’t just go for a run every day. Try to find some exercises that stress your upper body so your legs, knees and feet can get some much needed rest and relaxation. On the flip side, if you do a lot of weight-training and lifting for your sport, skip the gym once or twice a week and go for a run or ride a bike to keep your shoulders and elbows in shape.
It’s also important to allow your body to rest after the season. A lot of high school athletes go from football in the fall to basketball in the winter and tennis in the spring, pushing their body for nearly nine straight months. Give your body some time off, because if you push your joints too hard, you may find yourself on the bench or even the operating table recovering from injury.