As the season changes to fall, soccer and flag football are just a few of the sports teams launching into a new season. While some injuries may be entirely unavoidable, you can reduce your risk of many injuries (both mild and severe) by following the tips below. It’s important to view this issue from multiple angles, as just addressing one aspect and ignoring all the rest will result in a not-so sharp picture of the healthy athlete.
Get the proper nutrition.You can have the perfect biomechanics, optimal skeletal alignment, and the strongest muscles in the world, but if you are not taking in the right fuel, you’re leaving your body prone to fatigue (which is one of the most common causes of soft tissue injuries). Read “The Paleo Diet for Athletes” by Dr. Loren Cordain and use your intuition to decide if adopting some of the Paleo Diet’s nutritional recommendations might work for your body. Also check out “Why We Get Fat: And What to do about it” by Gary Taubes to gain an understanding of how carbohydrates, fats, and protein fuel your system. Make sure you are eating plenty of fresh vegetables and fruits. Some examples are raw tomatoes and peas fresh from the Farmer’s Market, grilled eggplant and peppers on the weekend, or kale blended into a fruit smoothie for a quick morning snack. However you prepare them, their generous fiber and antioxidant content will serve you well. Enjoy a reasonable amount of non-farmed fish, responsibly sourced eggs, and grass-fed lean meats. Make sure you are getting enough heart-healthy fats. Monounsaturated fats and the proper ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 polyunsaturated fats have been shown to be protective of heart disease, and both are necessary for proper cell function. This could look like a drizzle of olive oil and some avocado slices on those delicious salads you’ve been lovingly preparing, a moderate quantity of a variety of nuts and seeds, and some meals containing fatty fish. The healthiest fish to eat can be easily remembered by the acronym “SMASH”. That’s Salmon, Mackerel, Anchovies, Sardines, and Herring. Cross train. This concept is a bit more holistic than simply coaching a runner to add one lap-swimming workout per week, or a flag-football player to do regular kettlebell strength workouts. It is rather, using our bodies in different ways as often as we can, to create a situation in which our whole is greater than the sum of our parts. Incorporating a yoga practice into one’s life can provide great benefit to any athlete. On the physical level, yoga can increase flexibility, strength, posture, and circulation. On a mental level, yoga can decrease stress, anxiety, fatigue, and anger, as evidenced by a 2011 study in the Journal of Biopsychosocial Medicine.1 On a spiritual level, yoga encourages practitioners to be dynamic forces for positive change, both within ourselves, and in our community. Certainly these are vital ingredients for a well-balanced (cross-trained) life. Yoga is not everybody’s cup of tea, so if you prefer a hike alongside the flavorful blackberries growing on vines in Tilden Park to the peppermint flavor of both the invigoration and relaxation that is “downward dog”, go for it! Vary your terrain to stimulate the proprioceptive sensors in the joints and tissues of your feet. These sensors fire off messages to the brain telling it where your feet are located in space. Our brains thrive on novel sensory input. When your brain gets the optimum input, it can send the optimum output. This means that stimulating those proprioceptors allows your body to learn the strongest and most accurate movement patterns, which aid in the prevention of injuries. Choose to do what you love, choose something new to try, or go back to an old favorite activity. Our bodies thrive on variety!
Care for your muscles after workouts.In addition to an adequate cool down period, there are several modalities you can choose from to maintain the structural integrity of your soft tissues. Scar tissue tends to form in and between our muscles as a result of an acute injury or as a result of repetitive motion. Running up and down the field for hours during soccer games and practices definitely qualifies as repetitive motion! The muscles become inflamed from overuse, and scar tissue starts to lay itself down. It’s our body’s survival mechanism to survive injury, but it hinders our movement and function if we don’t address it in a timely manner. Using tools such as the foam roller and TheStickTM can generally break up the scar tissue when used regularly. Every night, roll one of these tools over each of the main muscle groups you used that day, focusing your application to the sorest areas. For scar tissue that is chronic, or that can’t be resolved by self-care, one good solution is getting Active Release Techniques (ART) treatments. ART is the gold standard treatment system for soft tissue injuries. We utilize this system at Innersport because the treatment protocols allow us to identify and correct the specific problems that are affecting each patient. Consider Biomechanical Analysis and Functional Exercises. Performing a biomechanical analysis allows us to “diagnose” an athlete’s biomechanical or movement dysfunction by breaking down the fundamental dynamic movements to expose the weak link contributing to injury and/or decreased performance. We use state-of-the-art Dartfish motion analysis technology to capture, edit, and analyze various sport motions to find the weak links in your body or body movement which can cause injury, pain, or suboptimal performance. We then prescribe specific functional exercises for you to perform that are designed to strengthen your weak links, and give you the best possible chance to remain injury-free. These injury prevention tips are applicable both on and off the field. Getting the right nutrition, mixing up your activities, being diligent with self care, and finding and correcting the causes of your weak links will go a long way towards also preventing injuries that might arise during everyday activities. 1. Yoshihara et al. Profile of mood states and stress-related biochemical indices in long-term yoga practitioners. Biopsychosoc Med. 2011; 5: 6.
Get Vitamins from Food, Not PillsOne in three women and one in four men in the United States take vitamin pills regularly. This month, a study that followed 182,099 people in California and Hawaii for an average of 11 years showed that taking multivitamin pills neither decreased nor increased the death rate for all causes or the rates of heart attack or cancer (American Journal of Epidemiology, August, 2011).
A previous review of 67 randomized trials of vitamin pill effects on life and health found that taking vitamin pills may shorten life (Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, Issue 1, 2008). The authors found an increased death rate of 16 percent in those taking vitamin A pills, seven percent with beta- carotene, and seven percent with vitamin E. The Women's Health Initiative study followed women for eight years and found that taking multivitamin pills has little or no influence on the risk of common cancers, heart attacks or death rate in postmenopausal women (Archives of Internal Medicine, February, 2009). A review of the world's literature shows that multivitamin use neither increases nor decreases risk for breast cancer (Annals of Pharmacotherapy. published online April 2011).
VITAMIN D FROM SUNLIGHT, NOT PILLS: Vitamin D is the only vitamin that appears consistently in the literature to help prevent heart attacks and cancers, and that benefit is related more to the fact that you can get it from sunlight (Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, April 2011). The Swedish Women's Lifestyle and Health cohort study followed women for up to 15 years and found that women who got sunburned twice or more per year during adolescence live longer than those who had been sunburned less than that. Women who went on sunbathing vacations more than once a year lived longer and suffered fewer heart attacks.
VITAMIN B PILLS MAY CAUSE HARM: Every chemical reaction in your body is started by an enzyme. For your body to convert chemical A to chemical B, you need an enzyme to start that reaction. All eight B vitamins are parts of enzymes. When you take large doses of one enzyme, you accumulate end products that must be balanced by also taking large doses of other enzymes. For example, NIACIN LOWERS CHOLESTEROL, BUT RAISES HOMOCYSTEINE: People who take large doses of niacin to lower cholesterol have a marked elevation of homocysteine, a risk factor for heart attacks. Here is how it happens: Proteins are made up of building blocks called amino acids. The B vitamin, Niacin, is part of the enzyme that converts an amino acid, cysteine, into homocysteine.
Three other B vitamins, folic acid (B9), cobalamin (B12), and niacin (B3)} protect you from accumulating too much homocysteine by breaking down homocysteine and converting it to cysteine. Therefore, when you take large doses of niacin, you also have to take large doses of the other three vitamins to protect you from accumulating homocysteine. Nobody really knows how to balance large doses of vitamins when you take them in pills. I think that it is safer to depend on nature to provide the proper balance of vitamins in foods.
MY RECOMMENDATIONS: I do not believe that taking one vitamin pill a day is harmful. I do believe that taking large doses of vitamins can harm you. I also believe that you do not need to take vitamin pills. Eat a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, seeds and nuts. Some people need to take vitamins D or B12, but you should be able to get B12 from fish or chicken, and get your vitamin D from sunlight if possible.