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Summer Sports Without the Sprains

There's nothing worse than feeling physical pain from a summer day of sports. Nothing ruins a great round of golf like golfer's elbow, or spoils a jog like runner's knee.

New tips recently published by the New York-Presbyterian Hospital (NYP) offer help for those who want to enjoy the season with athletics. The following tips were compiled by Dr. William Levine, chief of sports medicine at NYP/Columbia University Medical Center, and Dr. Andre Panagos, assistant professor of rehabilitation at NYP/Weill Cornell Medical Center:

  • Start slow. Your best bet is to prevent injuries before they happen. Don't expect to be in the same playing condition that you ended up in last fall, even if you have been maintaining your fitness level. New activities require muscles and joints to respond in a different way. This may result in minor soreness while your body adjusts. If you push yourself too hard, too soon, that minor soreness could turn into something more serious.
  • Don't forget to warm up. Although you may feel warm in good weather, you still have to give your muscles a chance to go through the motions and get blood pumping to all the necessary areas. Gentle stretching before finishing your activity will help those hardworking muscles retain and improve flexibility.
  • Treat injuries. For tennis elbow, runner's knee and similar injuries, try R.I.C.E.-- rest, ice, compression, and elevation. Rest means that the injured area is not put through any undue strain. When icing a body part, apply the ice in a covering such as a cotton handkerchief so that it is not in direct contact with the skin. Ice the affected area several times a day, for about 20 minutes at a time. Compression is the application of pressure to the injured area to stop bleeding (if any occurs) or to reduce swelling. Elevation helps in these respects as well. Compression and elevation are to be used in the case of acute injuries, such as a twisted ankle.
  • Take frequent breaks. Even tennis pros rest between sets. Taking a rest doesn't mean that you have to completely stop all activity (although it may be advisable sometimes). Just rest the body parts that are working hard and are susceptible to injury.
  • Pay attention to your body. Don't ignore the little aches and pains in the joints and muscles. They are early signals that could help you prevent more serious injuries.

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