It Takes Practice to Prevent Sports Injuries

Sports medicine doctors aren’t impressed with the specialization of young athletes today. While many advocate for playing multiple sports instead of focusing on just one, this advice is not always heeded.

So, how can athletes prevent the injuries that keep them from playing their sport of choice?
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.

“You need to 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, make sure you take time off.”

Proper warmup and cool-down habits are also essential, Damrow says.

“Everyone wants to go play, but we skip the good warmup,” he says. “Or we do the good warmup, but we miss the good cool-down and the stretching afterward that helps to keep our flexibility. Everyone – gymnasts, baseball players, football players, tennis players – everyone should do a better job at stretching and cooling down after sports.”

While it’s important to put in the work, younger athletes should remember that practice is different than game day, Damrow says.

“The goal of practice is not to go out and play 100% full-out,” Damrow says. “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. If you notice you’re getting sloppy with your form during practice, move to a new drill so you don’t reinforce bad habits.”

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

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