Summer Safety Series | Protect against sports-related injuries with good form and conditioning

By Kristy Bleizeffer Jul 8, 2016

The long warm days of summer not only draw people outside, they send more people to their doctor’s office with breaks, sprains and sports-related pain.

“Most orthopedic injuries are more common in summer. This includes sports injuries, car and off-road motorized vehicle accidents and even industrial accidents,” said Dr. James Shaffer, a board-certified orthopedic surgeon with Advantage Orthopedics and Neurosurgery in Casper. 

“This probably relates to more people spending a much greater amount of time in these types of activities.”

Broken bones and sprained tendons spike in summe. Telling the difference between breaks and sprains often requires X-rays, Shaffer said.

“After an injury, if you cannot regain at least basic use of the injured body part within minutes, then some evaluation is appropriate.  The magnitude of the injury and pain can guide whether you go to the ER or call your primary care provider.”

If athletes have done little training during the summer months or have poor technique, they may experience pain on the court, course or mound. Below, Dr. Shaffer talks about several common summer sports injuries and what you can do to prevent them.

Tennis elbow

Sometimes called lateral epicondylitis, this is pain caused by damage to a tendon near the elbow. Any activity involving repetitive gripping can cause the problem.  All racket sports, golf, physical labor and other activities are all common culprits.

  • Prevention: It is best prevented by avoiding excessively repetitive activities and by making sure technique and equipment are both correct.
  • Treatment: First line of treatment is rest, anti-inflammatories and ice.  If this is unsuccessful, then therapy for specific strengthening and flexibility exercises is the best option.  Other options include bracing, injections and surgery.
  • When to see a doctor: If the pain does not reside after three weeks of rest from the involved activity, along with the use of ice and over-the-counter anti-inflammatories, then physician evaluation is appropriate.

Swimmer’s shoulder

Shoulder pain caused by swimming, most often involves rotator cuff tendonitis or a tear.

  • Prevention: Performing directed exercises to keep your rotator cuff strong.
  • Treatment: Most cases can be treated with rest, anti-inflammatories and rotator cuff strengthening.  If the rotator cuff is torn, then surgery may be necessary.
  • When to see a doctor: If rest, anti-inflammatories and rotator cuff strengthening do not improve the pain, then orthopedic evaluation is appropriate.

Breastroker’s knee

Pain and increased flexibility in the ligaments on the inside of the knee for swimmers.  Pain and arthritis around the knee cap is common as well.

  • Prevention: Using excellent kick technique during breaststroke.
  • Treatment: Rest, ice and anti-inflammatories help with pain.  Improving your technique is the only real solution.  If left untreated, eventually injections, bracing or surgery may be required.
  • When to see a doctor: Talk to a swimming coach or another experienced swimmer as soon as possible to improve your technique.  After trying rest, stroke changes, anti-inflammatories and ice, you should see a doctor if symptoms persist.

Golf-related back pain

Low back pain is the most common golf-related injury.  This occurs due to the forceful rotation during the golf swing.

  • Prevention: Increasing hip and low back flexibility can help to prevent this.  Avoiding carrying your bag also helps.
  • Treatment: Rest, anti-inflammatories and a stretching and strengthening program typically help. Physical therapy or injections may be necessary in some cases.
  • When to see a doctor: As with many other sports-related injuries, if three weeks of rest in conjunction with anti-inflammatories and stretching does not help, you should see your primary care provider.  If your problem is associated with numbness or weakness in the legs, then call sooner.

Pitcher's arm

Elbow and shoulder problems are common in young throwers (especially baseball pitchers).  These can include injuries to the growth plates, cartilage or bone.

  • Prevention: Avoiding excessive pitch counts (these vary by the athlete's age) and allowing adequate rest between pitching appearances prevent these issues.  Good mechanics also help.
  • Treatment: Avoidance of throwing for at least several weeks, followed by gradual resumption of play with fewer pitches and more rest.  Occasionally extended periods of immobilization or even surgery is necessary.
  • When to see a doctor: If a few weeks of avoidance of hard throwing doesn’t help.