How to Avoid Sports Injuries

Sports medicine doctors aren’t impressed with the specialization of young athletes today.

“Kids are playing one sport year-round, and that’s really something that can lead to negative effects,” says Dr. Keith Corpus, a sports medicine specialist and surgeon at OSF HealthCare in Rockford.

There’s a simple solution to that issue, Corpus says – and it’s beneficial to young athletes in more ways than one.

“To prevent these overuse injuries, one of the biggest things is to play different sports, even if you’re somebody who knows you’ve got one sport to play,” says Corpus, who previously worked as an assistant team physician for the NFL’s Carolina Panthers. “I’ve interacted with a lot of college coaches, and the biggest thing they look for is well-rounded athletes who can play multiple sports.”

The idea of cross-training has been around for ages. Physicians have long known that moving muscles in a different pattern improves athletic performance. In fact, athletes often find they excel in their primary sport by training in other sports.

If an athlete is determined to stick with one sport, it at least helps to take the occasional break, says Dr. Derek Damrow, an orthopedic surgeon at Beloit Health System, Ortho Direct, who completed his fellowship at the University of Florida working with collegiate athletes.

“Give your body time to recover,” says Damrow. “Kids now, they’re so subspecialized, and that can take its toll. If you’re focusing on baseball, take three months off. If you’re doing football year-round, take time off.”

So, how can athletes prevent the injuries that keep them from playing their sport of choice?
Proper warmup and cool-down habits are essential, Damrow says.

“The goal of practice is not to go out and play 100% full-out. It’s to develop your skills, develop your technique, develop your form, so when you go out and play your sport you go out with proper form and don’t have injuries,” he says. “If you notice you’re getting sloppy with your form during practice, move on to a new drill so that you don’t reinforce bad habits.”

And don’t underestimate the importance of what you put into your bodies.

“Keep eating right, drinking enough fluids,” Damrow says. “Don’t try to go out there and not have a balanced diet.”