Summer’s the season in which “weekend warrior” reaches a whole new level. Full-time athletes take to the outdoors to become part-time athletes, be it on the golf course, the tennis court, the pool or the beach. But far too often, summer sports enthusiasts take to the links, the court or the water without adequate preparation or equipment and can be relegated to the sidelines due to summer sports injuries.
In preparing for summer sports, two of the most important pieces of equipment you’ll need are a water bottle and sunscreen.
In hotter temperatures, hydration becomes even more essential to ward off cramping, heat stroke or heat exhaustion. After all, your body can create 15 to 20 times the amount of heat with physical exertion as compared to when resting. Even well trained athletes can be susceptible to the effects of excess heat. Recently, Lebron James had to sit out the final minutes of an NBA Finals game due to cramping and dehydration.
Make sure you hydrate before, during and after you play, and don’t wait until you’re thirsty to replenish. Also, be mindful of electrolyte replenishment as well as hydration – sports drinks like Gatorade and Powerade contain sodium, which helps the body get fluids to the muscles and blood. While water’s essential, you may need a sports drink for hydration if you’re exerting yourself and sweating profusely. You can also consider some sports drink alternatives.
Sunscreen’s not just for preventing sunburn, though turning lobster red from too much sun is painful enough to keep you indoors for the next day or two. Sunburn affects your body’s ability to shake off the heat, and can lead to heat-related illnesses. The higher the SPF, the better, and waterproof and sweat-proof brands will allow you to keep it on longer.
Sports like golf, tennis, and surfing have whole industries attached to them that appear to be entirely about improving performance. But by investing in good equipment and taking lessons from pros, you can learn and execute proper technique that will improve your game and reduce your chance for injury.
Before playing any sport, a good warmup routine with plenty of stretching is essential. In sports like tennis and soccer, where there’s a good deal of running and quick changes in direction, a thorough regimen of leg stretches will reduce the likelihood of the ankle or knee injuries so prevalent in those sports.
In sports where there’s a good deal of arm and upper body torque, like golf and tennis, be attentive to what your body’s telling you. One of the most common summer sports injuries, tennis elbow (or later, epicondylitis), is an inflammation of tendons on the outside of the elbow that comes from overuse. And there’s golfer’s elbow (medial epicondylitis) that is just like tennis elbow, except it affects the inside of the elbow. In both cases, you definitely don’t want to play through the pain; in fact, the first line of treatment for both ailments is rest and ice.
Though swimming has a reputation for being a low-impact form of exercise, it’s not without its share of injuries, with the most common being “swimmer’s shoulder” – a muscle and tendon injury due to overuse and/or bad technique. Other common swimming injuries are to the knee (typically, from the kick associated with the breast stroke), the neck and the lower back. Stretching before and after a swim, paying attention to technique, staying away from kick boards and swim paddles, and alternating strokes can help keep you swimming all summer long.
Overexertion can also lead to injury, and the relative lack of control you have when you’re playing can put other players at risk. Take regular breaks in the shade, and do some gentle stretching during those breaks to ready yourself for when you do return to action. And if you’re susceptible to asthma, know that extreme heat and thunderstorms can cause symptoms to flare up.
Ultimately, your body will tell you if you’re reaching your limits of what you can safely do. Be attentive to any pain, fatigue or dizziness you might be experiencing as you’re active, and rest accordingly. The more you pace yourself, the better chance you’ll have of staying in the sport of your choice the entire summer.