5 Ways Athletes May Avoid Spine Injury

Written by Benjamin N. Carr , III, MD

All athletes, from professionals to weekend warriors, are at risk for a back or neck injury. Excessive strain, especially on the low back or lumbar spine, is quite common for athletes and can lead to episodes of back pain, sometimes severe. While it may not be possible to prevent injuries completely, here are 5 things athletes should know to keep their spines healthy.

#1 - Warm Up and Stretch
A proper warm-up with stretching exercises can increase blood circulation and improve the flexibility of muscles and ligaments. This not only helps enhance athletic performance, it can prevent injuries as well. To stretch properly, follow these tips:

#2 - Reduce the Chance of Injury: Use Proper Equipment
All sports have the risk of injury. Some more than others. In general, the more contact in a sport, the more risk of injury. To reduce the risk of injury to the spine, athletes should wear protective equipment appropriate for their sport such as neck rolls and shoulder pads. Well-constructed and supportive shoes are also a must. Other types of equipment that can help prevent injuries to other parts of the body may include:

#3 - Stay Hydrated
Heat injuries in sports occur as a result of excessive exercise in high temperatures and humidity. Use common sense to avoid these potentially serious injuries. Here's how:

#4 - Don't Overdo It
Repetitive Motion Disorders (RMDs), such as tennis elbow (epicondylitis), bursitis, and tendonitis, occur when movements are repeated over and over again causing damage to various parts of the body. To avoid overuse injuries, try the following:

#5 - Adopt a Healthy Lifestyle
In addition to your sport, look for other ways to improve your overall health by adopting a healthy lifestyle that includes:

An important strategy to help you "stay in the game" is to be aware of steps you can take before the event to reduce the risk of a back or neck injury. Precautions may keep you from being side-lined!

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