This blog comes at the request of a colleague and is directed at all you weekend warriors! When ProMedica HealthConnect editor Gina Sares and three of her teammates pulled muscles and cramped-up during an intense Thursday night co-ed softball league game, she came to me for some pointers.
Note: If you see me on the softball field (and if you play in the Toledo area regularly, you probably will), this list is more of a “do as I say and not as I do” set of recommendations! So, if you find yourself especially sore or notice you are suffering from cramps/pulled muscles, try to follow some of these recommendations to help keep you competing!
Drink plenty of fluids throughout the day and replenish any lost fluid with water and the occasional sports drink during competition. Staying hydrated is often overlooked and being significantly dehydrated can lead to more serious health issues.
How many times as a young athlete did you just show up and play your sport? I know that I never did and now that I am getting older, this may be even more important. Try to take a light jog followed by some basic leg and arm warm ups (e.g. high knees, butt kicks, leg swings, lunge walk and arm swings, arm circles) to get the blood flowing.
In any level of competition, athletes warm up: Football players do team warm ups, then position specific drills. Baseball players take batting practice, and you will always see guys running in the outfield, stretching and throwing the baseball around. Basketball players have shoot around. Soccer players, well, I’m not real sure what they do; probably run a half marathon before they run another 12 miles during their match.
Perform light stretching.
This would be more important if you have specific tightness or known injury. Check out this video for stretches and exercises to help with flexibility.
Stay active during the week.
Find a cardio activity you enjoy (or just tolerate for some people) a few times per week. Add some strengthening to your routine 2-3 days per week. Stretching can be done for 10-15 minutes every day. Remember to particularly address the muscles you know are tight.
Don’t push through pain.
If you feel you’ve suffered an injury, do not push through the pain. Start with RICE: Rest, Ice, Compress and Elevate the injured body part. Follow up with a medical professional if the injury has not healed after 24-48 hours, you have significant pain, felt a popping sensation, and/or substantial muscle bruising (indicative of a torn muscle).
Could it be a sprain, strain or fracture? Learn more from our trauma columnist, Diane Simon.