Spring is in the air. Many students may be ready to jump into springtime routines and release all of their pent-up energy from winter, but months of cold weather may have left some students’ bodies with a little less “can do” than they remember. This difference can lead to injuries from overexertion or lack of preparation.
With spring intramural games underway, the risk for sports-related injuries also increases. Risk factors include lack of conditioning, muscular imbalances and improper development of dynamic joint range of motion.
While not every injury is preventable, there are steps students can take to reduce the risk of experiencing a sports-related injuries, said Jeffery Kreuser, certified athletic trainer at Lafene Health Center and Recreational Services.
“I believe one of the easiest methods to avoid injury is to try to exercise regularly. Thirty to 60 minutes a day of exercise, both aerobic and strengthening will help,” Kreuser said. “Another way is pre and post training stretching. I would personally recommend holding each stretch for around 30 seconds for maximum effectiveness.”
Proper stretching and warm up exercises can help prevent strains or injuries during activity, as well reduce or eliminate post activity soreness and pain. Another way to be safe while exercising or playing sports is to wear proper attire and footwear, Kreuser said.
“A good supportive pair of athletic shoes or cleats can prevent many ankle and foot injuries from occurring,” Kreuser said. “Shin guards and socks for soccer and long pants for softball if you plan on sliding. These are just examples of some supportive attire that can help prevent many injuries.”
Though playing in athletic games can increase the likelihood of injuries, most students compete successfully without getting injured, Kreuser said.
“Although many injuries do occur during our intramural sports events, hundreds of K-State students play and participate in activities at the Rec complex each day with no resulting injuries,” Kreuser said.
However, Jenny Yuen, health educator at Lafene Health Center, is familiar with sports injuries, especially those that occur in the spring.
“Students just need to slow down, take caution, do proper warm ups and keep hydrated,” Yuen said. “Just don’t overwork or extend yourself, use appropriate sportswear, take caution in the weather, wear sunscreen.”
Yuen said that specific injuries are likely to occur when playing specific sports. Athletes should be aware of the injuries common to their preferred sport. For example, she noted that spring intramural indoor soccer usually means an increase in ankle and knee injuries.
It is important to properly care for an injury within the first 48-72 hours to minimize recovery time, Kreuser said.
“The RICE technique for injury care is very important following an injury,” Kreuser said. “The “R” stands for rest. The “I” stands for ice. The “C” stands for compression and the “E” stands for elevation.”
After an injury, it is important to not put pressure on the injury to allow it to heal. Injuries should be iced three to four times a day for 20 minute periods to help control inflammation or swelling. Keeping the injured body part compressed when not icing also helps control swelling. Elevating the injured body part above the heart level limits swelling and decreases pain.
Athletic trainers and general health care providers at the Lafene Health Center are avialable if injuries worsen over time or include extreme pain. Recreational Services also provides medical assistance at all intramural sporting events.
If immediate care is needed, it is not always possible to wait for Lafene Health Center business hours, Yuen said. At that point, it is time to seek additional medical treatment.
“We try to have options for students because we do understand that you are college students, and we do not want you to have to pay high prices at emergency rooms when we are available and able to help,” Yuen said. “It does, however, depend on the severity of the injury. If it is life threatening or something we can’t treat, we would, in that case, have to direct you to Mercy Hospital.”
Accidents do happen, said Michele Dugan, physical therapist at Orthopaedic and Sports Medicine Center in Manhattan, but it is very important to prepare yourself for physical activity to prevent injuries from occurring during regular exercise.
As students participate in intramural games or enjoy the warming weather by getting outdoors, it is important to stay prepared to prevent injuries. Working up gradually, stretching and wearing proper clothing and footwear can help prevent injuries and keep students having fun on the fields or just out of doors.