Staying safe while playing sports can be a challenge. Any time you enter into vigorous athletic endeavors, there’s a chance you can get hurt. But it isn’t an accident that some athletes get hurt more than others. There are ways to prevent injuries before they happen and ways of playing sports that keep you safe.
It’s important for athletes to have this knowledge before they go out onto the field, so they know how to prepare and what to watch out for. If you don’t know what you’re doing, you are much more likely to get injured and no one wants that.
Stretching Before You Play
A lot of people stretch after they play a sport but it is just as important to stretch before. The reason you want to stretch before playing is that your muscles work best when they are warmed and loosened. You are more likely to pull a muscle or tear a ligament if you don’t stretch before playing your sport.
The kind of stretching you should do before playing a sport is called dynamic stretching. This means it involves movement. Because your muscles are cold, you want to stretch them while in motion. For example, high knees and butt kicks are good for warming up your legs. Arm circles are good to get the blood flowing in your upper body.
You don’t want to do stretches like touching your toes. When your muscles are cold they can tear even from stretching. These are usually small tears called micro tears. You might not notice a micro tear but if you get enough of them, it can become an issue. So make sure to do dynamic stretches before playing your sport.
Stretching After You Play
Stretching after you play is also very important. Your muscles are warm and loose after exercising but if you don’t stretch, your muscles can get tight and you may be sore the next day. But if you stretch after you play, you can get more flexible and avoid soreness or injury from tightness.
The type of stretching you should do after playing a sport is called static stretching. This means that you are holding a stretch for say, 30 seconds, and not moving. Touching your toes is a good static stretch for your hamstrings. You should remember to stretch your entire body, even the difficult places, like your back.
Soreness Vs. Pain
Soreness and pain are both a part of sports but they need to be handled very differently. Soreness is a tired feeling in your muscles. If you play an entire soccer game, your legs are likely to be sore the next day. If you swim a relay race, your arms might be sore afterwards. Soreness is okay. You may want to rest or take it easy the next day if you’re sore but it’s nothing to worry about.
Pain, on the other hand, means you need to stop what you are doing. While soreness is usually a dull feeling, pain is a sharper one. Pain happens in sports but it should not be ignored. If you are in pain, it means that you are doing something wrong (like improper technique) or that you are injured and need to stop playing.
There is a culture in sports that makes athletes think that playing through pain is an honorable thing to do. But getting injured just means that you can’t play anymore, and some injuries can really change your life. So pain should be taken seriously.
There’s a lot more to staying safe in sports than just stretching and paying attention to pain, but those areas are a good place to start.