Tips to Avoid Spring Sports Injuries

As the warm weather of spring approaches, many of us like to hit the sports field and work off those extra winter pounds. Let's face it though, if we've been slothful most of the winter, it can take some time getting back into shape. If the "no pain, no gain" sports adage is ringing in your head, it's time you acknowledge that attitude is outdated, and according to sports medicine experts, one that will most likely be the cause of a sports injury for you this spring.

In other words, if you are trying to leap back to last season's performance level without taking the appropriate steps to condition, you are taking the fast track to injury.

According to intensive care medical specialist Matthew Hoffman, MD, the most common sports injuries are:

  • Ankle sprain
  • Groin pull
  • Hamstring strain
  • Shin splints
  • Knee injury—ACL tear
  • Knee injury—Patellofemoral syndrome (injury resulting from the repetitive movement of your kneecap against your thigh bone)
  • Tennis elbow (epicondylitis)

The good news is that many sports injuries can be prevented, or at least reduced, if you take some basic precautions.

According to sports medicine experts, injuries usually occur due to one of three following reasons:

  1. Lack of conditioning
  2. Muscular imbalances
  3. Improper development of dynamic joint range of motion

In order to avoid the above three conditions and steer clear of any injuries this spring, employ the below tips developed by the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine and American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.

Preventing Spring Sports Injuries

  • Warm up. Always take time to warm up and stretch before physical activity, especially before playing a sport. Studies have shown that cold muscles are more prone to injury. Warm up with jumping jacks, walking or running in place for 3 to 5 minutes. Then slowly and gently stretch muscles you will use in your sport or physical activity, holding each stretch for 30 seconds.
  • Get consistent exercise. Don't succumb to the "weekend warrior" syndrome. Compressing your physical activity into two days sets you up for trouble and doesn't increase your fitness level. Try to get at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity every day. This could include walking, cycling, swimming, weight lifting, yoga, or martial arts.
  • Be prepared. Invest in good equipment. This includes selecting the proper shoes for your sport and using them only for that sport. When the treads start to look worn or the shoes are no longer supportive, it' time to replace them.
  • Train and condition. Overuse injuries are common and preventable. If you have been sluggish this winter and haven't played your sport for a while, don't come out and hit the ball for an hour. Instead, first condition your body by lightly working the relevant muscle groups in the weeks before playing your sport.
  • Listen to your body. Learn to recognize when your body is fatigued. Muscle fatigue takes away your protective mechanisms and increases your risk for injuries. A good rule of thumb is to rest or stop playing altogether when you are fatigued. You can always come out to play again next weekend.
  • Cool down. Make sure to stretch relevant muscles after your sport. Spend at least 30 seconds on each stretch.

Conditioning Exercises for Baseball, Tennis, and Golf

Training certain muscle groups used in your sport can help prevent an injury. Try these recommended exercises.


Shoulder strengthening and flexibility: Stand, holding five pound weights and stretch your upper arms out so that they are parallel to the ground. Rotate hands down so they are facing the ground--and then back up to face the sky. Do three sets of 12-15 reps, three times per week.


Shoulder strengthening: Stand, holding five pound weights, arms at your sides. Raise arms in front of you to shoulder level, hold for a few seconds, then lower and repeat, this time out to the sides. Do three sets of 10 to 15 reps, three times per week.


Lower back flexibility: Slightly bend your knees and bend forward, letting your arms and head dangle toward your toes for 15 seconds. Do this several times a day.


Chase, M. Tips for Avoiding Spring Sports Injuries. The Wall Street Journal. Jan. 31, 1996.

Hoffman, M. The Seven Most Common Sports Injuries. WebMD. Accessed Feb. 26, 2010.

Sports Injuries. National Institute of Arthritis and Muscoloskeletal Diseases. Accessed Feb. 26, 2010.

Sports Injury Prevention for Baby Boomers. American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons. July 2007. Accessed Feb. 26, 2010.