February 29, 2012
Without taking precautions before engaging in new sports, exercise and recreational activities, you may be more susceptible to physical injury. Such factors as reduced overall physical activity (not including physical training), an unbalanced diet (and maybe a few extra pounds), holiday leave and fewer recreational opportunities during the winter may all contribute to an increased risk for injury.
According to a recent Status of Forces Survey of active-duty Soldiers, more than half of all Soldiers (59 percent) get injured each year. Almost 30 percent of Soldiers had an injury from sports, exercise and recreational activities. Half of these injuries were from running and about two-thirds were lower body injuries. The most common injuries experienced from these activities were sprained joints, strained muscles, tendonitis or bursitis, fractures, and joint dislocations or separations. Because of injuries such as these, nearly 40 percent of the injured Soldiers were placed on limited duty for 15 or more days. Though many injuries are caused by trauma (such as falling or colliding with another player), many more injuries are caused by overuse or overtraining. With PT and sports-related injuries playing such a big role in the Army, it is important to take certain steps to help prevent these injuries from occurring.
Tips to help prevent sports and PT injuries for individual and group activities include:
• Wear running shoes that fit comfortably and replace them after 300 to 500 miles.
• Run on stable ground; avoid gravel, loose dirt and potholes.
• Wear sports attire that helps to keep the body cool, such as moisture-wicking fabrics that allow sweat to quickly evaporate through your clothing.
• Wear an ankle or knee support/brace if you are susceptible to ankle rolls or knee injuries.
• Remove any jewelry that could get caught in quick movements.
• Wear shoes that are appropriate for the activity, such as cleats, to avoid slips, trips or falls.
• Wear sports-specific padding and equipment (helmets, protective eyewear, etc.).
• Communicate with team members to avoid collisions.
• When possible, always wear a mouth guard (basketball, soccer, football, martial arts/combatives).
• Ensure equipment is maintained and perform safety checks.
• Always wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket when in open water.
Before any physical activity, always remember to warm up for 5 to 10 minutes with light cardiovascular work and exercises that simulate the movements you will perform in your activity. It is also important to cool down and continue to hydrate your body with water or a carbohydrate sports drink at the end of any exercise. One way to monitor fluid loss and replacement needs is to record your weight before and after workouts. In conditions of 85 F and 40 percent humidity, athletes will lose about 2 to 4 pounds of body weight per hour through sweat loss. Regardless of activity, Soldiers participating in recreational sports will lose a significant amount of water through sweat. The aim of athletes should be to replenish water levels lost from exercise and physical activity. Keep in mind that by the time an athlete experiences thirst, a significant amount of body fluid has already been lost and dehydration has set in. The Institute of Medicine recommends 3.7 liters of water per day for men and 2.7 liters for women. When exercising, an additional 1 to 2 liters should be consumed for endurance bouts lasting over an hour. It is also important to replenish carbohydrates and protein (a 3:1 ratio is recommended, in which you consume three carbohydrate grams for every single gram of protein) used during exercise and recreational activities within 30 minutes of ending the activity.
If you experience a serious injury (such as a concussion, fracture or dislocated joint) from PT or sporting activities, seek medical treatment and inform unit leadership if you are given limited duty restrictions. For a minor injury (sprain, strain, abrasion or bruise), always report the injury and remember the acronym RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation). You must rest to give the injury time to heal, which could take several days or weeks, depending on the severity of the injury. Use ice (20 minutes on, 20 minutes off for four to six hours) to reduce swelling of the affected area and decrease the pain. Compression bandages will help to stabilize the joint and elevating the affected area will also help reduce swelling. If pain and swelling persists, seek medical treatment.