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6 Tips to Get – and Stay – In the Game

With Park and Recreation Month in full swing this July, it's time to get in the game! But before you head to your local park or a field near you to join a pick-up game or enter a more competitive league, make sure your body is ready to play to reduce your risk of injury.

First-time players and weekend warriors are more prone to injury than serious athletes when participating in sports if not careful and well prepared. Some of the more common injuries include ankle sprains, hamstring strains, knee and elbow injuries, shin splints and groin pulls. 

Here's how to lower your risk of injury when you've spent most of your week sitting at a desk:

  1. Prepare to play. Before you start playing any sport, build up your strength and endurance. Perform strengthening and stretching exercises to better prepare your joints and muscles to handle the rigors of the particular activity so you don't jump in cold-turkey.
  2. Follow the rules. Many sports-related injuries can be avoided by following the rules of the game. This is especially true in contact sports where the risk of injury is higher.
  3. Warm up and cool down. Spend at least 15 minutes warming up before an activity and cooling down when you're done. Warming up increases blood flow and gets your muscles ready for activity. During your cool down, stretch to improve flexibility.
  4. Wear protective gear. Make sure you choose appropriate gear for your sport, including helmets, shin guards, protective pads, mouth guards and eyewear. Check that all gear fits snugly and securely. Properly-fitting shoes are a must and should be replaced on a regular basis.
  5. Be realistic about what you can do. Your body needs a chance to get used to an activity if you have never done it before. Slow down or stop when you are fatigued or feel pain. Overdoing it makes it more likely you'll become injured.
  6. Take a rest. It's common for athletes of all levels to think they can push past the pain of an injury, but you're better off taking a rest and waiting for your body to heal. If you are not fully healed and you continue to play, you risk making things worse.

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Date Last Reviewed: May 14, 2019
Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor
Medical Review: Andrew P. Overman, DPT, MS, COMT, CSCS
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