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sports safety for adults

Sports safety in adults requires overall body conditioning. Conditioning of specific muscles is needed to prevent injury in specific sports.

What is the information for this topic? 
Each year, a large number of people hurt themselves playing sports. This doesn't need to happen. Most of the injuries suffered by amateur athletes could have been prevented. Some injuries, such as tennis elbow, are caused by faulty movement. But most sports injuries occur because the muscles are not conditioned.

The muscular system grows stronger with use. To function properly, a muscle has to be flexible, and to be flexible it has to relax. Tightness and tension reduce the flexibility of a muscle. Over time, a tight muscle becomes shortened, and is constantly tense and painful. Then the muscle becomes vulnerable to tearing.

Here are some safety guidelines for 10 of the most popular individual sports:

  • A person who decides to take up running should get a physical examination from a doctor first.
  • The right shoes are essential. The shoe should bend easily at the ball of the foot. A shoe that is stiff at the ball can cause tightening of the calf muscles. Shoes with a narrow heel should be avoided. They are unstable and can cause ankle sprain.
  • A runner must warm up properly before running. A good warm-up includes stretching, relaxing, and kicking exercises.
Tennis and Other Racket Sports
  • A player must warm up before playing.
  • Good shoes are a must. Shoe supports may be helpful.
  • Hard-surfaced tennis courts can cause injury if a player falls, so extra caution should be used when playing on this kind of court.
Snow Skiing
  • Good conditioning during the off months is important. Poor conditioning and lack of skill are the two main causes of ski injuries. Stair-climbing, weight-lifting, stretching exercises, and push-ups are all good ways to prepare for skiing.
  • Ski equipment can cause injury. Good release bindings and good boots are critical.
  • It is very important to limber up and stretch muscles before and after skiing. Waiting in line and riding lifts mean that the body can get cold. If it does, it's not prepared to twist and turn when needed, much less react in an emergency.
  • Cross-country skiing is a good way to get into condition for downhill skiing. It strengthens the heart and other muscles.
  • The leg and shoulder muscles may become too tense, especially in beginners.
  • Stretching exercises are important to make sure that the legs, back, and abdominal muscles are strong and flexible.
  • Handlebars that are too low can cause a stiff neck and low back pain.
  • Calf muscles and hamstrings must be stretched before and after riding, or they will shorten up in time.
  • A major safety issue in golf is often overlooked, stress. Just one missed putt can cause enormous tension. The mental strains of golf cause the muscles to tighten. Hitting 50 to 100 balls while twisting in one direction can cause muscle spasm and pain in the lower back. This is even more likely in people who are already tense.
  • Stretching, relaxing, and limbering up are all important before hitting the golf course.
  • Golf elbow is similar to tennis elbow. It's caused by straining the forearm muscles to grip the club. It's a good idea to consult with the club pro for instruction on the correct grip.
  • Fishermen, particularly fly fishermen, can develop tennis elbow or shoulder strain. When casting repeatedly, it's important to be relaxed, not rigid.
  • Fishermen should avoid sitting or standing in the same position for more than 20 minutes to keep muscles from stiffening.
  • Deep-sea fishing puts a tremendous strain on the back, shoulders, and arms. Stretching and flexibility exercises are important.
  • Sailing can lead to a painful back. The cause can be sitting for a long time and then suddenly needing to act quickly, or lifting heavy objects like wet sails or anchors. Back stretching and flexibility exercises can help prevent injury.
Horseback Riding
  • Horseback riding requires strong leg and abdominal muscles and strong biceps to control the horse. All these muscles can be strengthened with weight training.
  • Shoulder and neck injuries often result when a person is thrown from the horse. It's a good idea to practice some gymnastics to learn how to fall.
  • Hiking and mountaineering combine strenuous physical activity and enjoyment of the outdoors. The sport can range from climbing steep rock or ice to hiking easy paths.
  • Excellent muscular and cardiovascular conditioning are needed.
  • No one should go out alone. It's safer and more fun to join up with a knowledgeable and experienced friend or group.
  • Hikers and climbers must prepare well. Various hazards require different equipment.
  • Plenty of rest is essential. A sharp mind is needed to detect possible hazards along the way.
  • All of the muscles of the body are used on a strenuous climb, so total body conditioning is important.
Author: Dr. Karen Wolfe, MBBS, MA
Reviewer: eknowhow Medical Review Panel
Editor: Dr John Hearne
Last Updated: 16/10/2004
Potential conflict of interest information for reviewers available on request

This website and article is not a substitute for independent professional advice. Nothing contained in this website is intended to be used as medical advice and it is not intended to be used to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease, nor should it be used for therapeutic purposes or as a substitute for your own health professional's advice.  All Health and any associated parties do not accept any liability for any injury, loss or damage incurred by use of or reliance on the information.


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