A Few Tips for Avoiding Orthopedic Injuries

Not all risk factors for orthopedic injuries, such as age or gender, can be avoided, but some are related to the activities you engage in, or the intensity with which you do them:

  • Obesity: Excess weight puts added pressure on the knees and speeds up the breakdown of joint cartilage, increasing the risk of osteoarthritis.
  • Overuse: Overuse injuries like muscle strain, tendonitis, and bursitis must be treated early to prevent them from recurring.
  • Overdoing: When you haven't exercised for a long time, start conservatively and steadily progress into the degree you desire.
  • High-risk activities: Certain activities, including sports such as skiing, football, and basketball, pose a high risk of injury (especially to the knees). How about swimming or cycling instead?
  • Lack of strength and flexibility: It is very important to develop a regime of exercises to increase the flexibility of your muscles prior to vigorous exercise. For example, if the hamstring and quadriceps muscle groups surrounding your knee are weak or too tight, they will not be able to render adequate support. These muscles, if strong and flexible enough, should absorb much of the stress placed on the knee joints, reducing the risk of an injury.

The American Association of Orthopaedic Surgeons offers additional information about injury prevention.

Ankles & Feet

  • Taping of the ankle has been shown to prevent ankle sprains.
  • Using orthotic devices. There is positive evidence that orthotic devices diminish stress fractures and perhaps plantar fasciitis, according to orthopedic health experts.
  • Orthopedic doctors agree that stretching before physical activity can reduce the risk of injury.

Hips/Avoiding Bone Loss

Orthopedic surgeons know that prevention of hip fractures is far better, and far less costly, than treatment after the bone is broken.

Talk with your doctor:

  • Proper diagnosis and early treatment can help reduce the risks of osteoporosis. Consult your physician because treatment must be prescribed individually.
  • Treatment plans should be initiated as early as possible because once bone is lost it is difficult to replace.
  • Ask your physician about medication to prevent menopausal bone loss, such as estrogen replacement therapy, calcitonin, or other medications currently under development.
  • Eliminate smoking and excessive alcohol use which cause bone loss and increase your risk for a fracture.
  • Consult with your physician if you require medications regularly that can alter your balance or cause dizziness. Certain drugs, such as benzodiazepines, that are common treatments for anxiety or insomnia, may cause dizziness and falls.

Calcium: Be sure your diet contains the necessary calcium and vitamin D during childhood, adolescence, and adulthood. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) recommends the following daily calcium intake:

  • 11 to 24 years: 1,200 mg.
  • Pregnant or nursing women under age 19: 2,000 mg.
  • Pregnant or nursing women 19 or older: 1,400 mg.
  • Before menopause: 1,000 mg.
  • Menopausal, postmenopausal women not taking estrogen: 1,500 mg.
  • Menopausal, postmenopausal women taking estrogen: 1,000 mg.
  • Middle-aged men: 1,000 mg.

Vitamin D: The Food and Drug Administration's USRDA (Recommended Daily Allowance) for vitamin D is 400 international units (IU). One glass of milk contains 100 IU. Your doctor may recommend an increase in your intake of vitamin D after menopause. Because elderly people may consume less vitamin D and absorb calcium poorly, they should ask their doctor about increasing their daily intake of vitamin D.

Exercise: To minimize bone loss, engage in weight-bearing exercises, such as walking (considered one of the best methods of maintaining bone strength), jogging, hiking, climbing stairs, dancing, aquatic exercises, treadmill exercises, and weight training. Consult your doctor before beginning any vigorous exercise program. Your doctor can evaluate your physical condition and help you decide which activity suits you best.

The National Institute of Aging recommends you begin exercising slowly, especially if you have been inactive. Start with short periods of about five to 10 minutes twice a week and build up slowly, adding a few minutes each week. You can build up to exercise periods of 15 to 30 minutes, three or four times a week.

ATVs & Children

Over the years, all terrain vehicles (ATVs) and motocross motorcycles have gained popularity and been marketed as toys to consumers. These high-velocity machines can weigh between 300 and 600 pounds and run on average between 25 and 60 miles per hour with some reaching speeds of 75 miles per hour.

In 2008, nearly 28 percent of all ATV-related injuries were to children younger than 16. There were an estimated 135,000 injuries for riders of all ages for ATV use. A majority of ATV injuries happen from tipping, overturning, or multiple riders.

Jeffrey R. Sawyer, MD, chief of pediatric orthopedic trauma at Campbell Clinic-LeBonheur Medical Center in Memphis looked at 4,483 children in the U.S. who were injured in an ATV-related accident from 1997 to 2006. The study shows a 140 percent increase in children injured. Of those children, 332 (7.4 percent) had a spine injury, which was a 368 percent increase in the number of spinal injuries from 1997.

Recommendations: If you believe in allowing your children to ride ATVs, make sure they attend a safety training session before operating these vehicles and maintain adult supervision during rides. Better education about the potential for serious injury is highly recommended by orthopaedic and safety experts.

Injury Prevention for Runners

Whether you're a marathoner, a 5K runner, or a weekend jogger, running can be a great source of exercise and accomplishment. However, uneven terrain, worn-out shoes, over-ambitious training schedules, and lack of proper warm-up can all contribute to injury.

Here are some tips for how to avoid injury while running:

  • Plan a progressive running program to prevent injuries. A five-minute warm-up (which should raise one's temperature by one degree) followed by stretching exercises, is essential before starting a run. Following the run, stretching again is important, because microtears that may have occurred will heal better.
  • During hot weather, running should be scheduled in the early morning or evening hours, to avoid heat exhaustion. Do not run when pollution levels are high. Be sure to have adequate rest between training sessions.
  • Start your run with the body feeling "a little cool" since body temperature will increase when you start running.
  • You can lose between six to 12 ounces of fluid for every 20 minutes of running. Drink 10 to 15 ounces of fluid 10 to 15 minutes prior to running and every 20 to 30 minutes along your route. Weigh yourself before and after a run. For every pound lost, drink one pint of fluid.
  • In cool weather, you are less likely to get chilled if you run into the wind when you start running and run with the wind at the finish.
  • Run in the shade if possible, and avoid direct sun and blacktop. If exposed to the sun, apply sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15. Wear sunglasses to filter out UVA and UVB rays, and wear a hat with a visor to shade your eyes and face.
  • In high altitudes, runners should gradually acclimate themselves to lower oxygen levels, by slow, steady increases in speed and distance.

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