TMH Living Well: Keep injuries off the field |

TMH Living Well: Keep injuries off the field

Myndi Christopher

With the start of school right around the corner, practices are starting soon. Is your student athlete ready? Don't let a twisted ankle or muscle sprain ruin his or her plans. Promote warming up, learning correct exercises, and keeping a strong core to avoid injuries.

Warm it up

Before hitting the court or field, athletes should move and stretch. Cold muscles don't absorb shock or impact as well as warm muscles and when people go from zero to 60 they can experience muscle strains and pulls.

Some current studies challenge whether stretching is helpful or not. Studied athletes who stretch without other warm ups were shown to experience some muscle strength loss, especially before weight lifting or sports that demand jumping. Stretching creates flexibility, but stretched muscles are slightly weaker. That's why some experts just recommend stretching afterwards.

Marshall Kraker, certified athletic trainer for Moffat County High School includes strengthening exercises with his teams before hitting the field.

"Strengthening exercises within warm ups help prevent potential injury," Kraker stated.

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The American Council on Exercise supports stretching, recommending athletes stretch before and after a workout. According to the council, less stiff, more flexible muscles are less likely to injure. Stretching reduces muscle tension and overall stress, lowers the risk of back pain and increases range of motion.

Learn correct exercises

As a certified athletic trainer, Kraker plays a major role in helping high school athletes avoid injuries.

"Sometimes athletes have inappropriate habits that predispose them to injury. By showing them correct methods for exercises and movements I can help prevent potential injuries," he said.

To create balanced, sturdy muscles, it's recommended to work out most days and do a variety of activities, not just one sport. Doing the same movement, such as only tennis or only pitching a baseball can create overuse injuries.

If your child plans to build muscle by lifting weights, great! But get him or her proper training first. Lifting incorrectly can cause injury — especially in teenage boys who like to push it and prove their power. Kraker helps teach proper lifting technique.

Create a strong core

Draw a line from your belly button around your back: these are your core muscles. Keeping them strong helps avoid injury. When core muscles are strong they support the spine, pelvis and shoulders and ready them for impact during sports.

Traditionally, people think of crunches or sit ups as exercises that strengthen the core. These do, but abdominals are only one set of our core muscles. You don't have to get fancy; tried and true exercises are good for the core: sit ups, pushups and squats for example. A strong core means less back injury, more balance and better posture.

Kraker spends hours each day researching and increasing his knowledge on how to best provide care to student athletes in the areas of prevention, strengthening, and diagnosis of injury or dysfunction, as well as to learn the best treatments for athletes.

"Assessing orthopedic injuries is a huge part of my job. I attend games for all sports at the high school and travel with teams. I'm on the sidelines to play detective and figure out what's causing a student athlete pain. Of course I suggest athletes follow up with a doctor when needed, but parents appreciate my on-the-spot help and once I find out what the injury is I tailor a plan to help their child regain strength," Kraker concluded.

This weekly article with tips on living well is sponsored by The Memorial Hospital at Craig — improving the quality of life for the communities we serve through patient-centered healthcare and service excellence.

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