Don't Let These 12 Sports Injuries Ruin Your Summer

Summer Sports Injuries to Avoid


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Summer Sports Injuries to Avoid


Spending more time outside being active is a big part of summer. But the flurry of activity can also lead to a variety of injuries, many tied to sudden overuse, repetitive motion, or engaging in sports that your body is simply not accustomed to. "The weather becomes nice, you suddenly become more active, and you haven't built up your tolerance," said Dr. Miho Tanaka, director of the Women's Sports Medicine Program in the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at Baltimore's Johns Hopkins Hospital. "It's just like working out, if you suddenly go do things that you don't normally do, your body doesn't keep up." The good news is that many common summer sports injuries can be avoided. Medical professionals across the country weigh in on the best ways to do that.

Always consult your doctor or other qualified healthcare provider before beginning any exercise routine or if you have any medical concerns.

Tennis Elbow


An inflammation of the tendons in the elbow, this injury is caused by overuse of the muscles of the forearm, which can happen while playing tennis, as well as racquetball, squash, and golf. "People go on vacation, summer starts, school lets out, and they go from playing tennis zero times a week to five times a week," said Tanaka. "Your body can only adjust to so many changes at once." To avoid injury, start with a gradual strengthening program about six weeks before you plan to begin consistently playing. Prior to a tennis match, also be sure to warm up by going through the motion of swinging a racket. A golf club or racket that's too heavy can also trigger this injury, so make sure you're using proper equipment.

Achilles Tendinitis


Also subject to injury with overuse, the Achilles tendon is the band of tissue that connects calf muscles at the back of the lower leg to your heel bone. One of the most common causes of Achilles tendinitis is a sudden increase in the intensity or the length of runs. "For people who do nothing all winter and then all of sudden get out and start running, it can lead to a build up of inflammation," said Tanaka. Stretching and strengthening exercises (calf stretches, ankle rotations, standing heel raises) prior to running is one of the best ways to avoid this injury, particularly calf stretching exercises. It's also a good idea to be fitted professionally for running shoes. Orthotics are another option if simple stretching and strengthening doesn't work.

Shin Splints


A broad term for lower leg pain (below the knee either on the front outside part of the leg or the inside of the leg), shin splints are typically brought on by excessive running or engaging in sports ranging from tennis to softball and volleyball, says Santa Monica, California-based foot specialist and surgeon Dr. Steven Rosenberg. "If you want to avoid them, wear supportive running shoes," suggests Rosenberg, who also recommends arch supports. Stay away from the over the counter supports (such as Dr. Scholl's), and look for more sophisticated options that are more effective, said Rosenberg.

Rotator Cuff Strain


Many summer sports including Frisbee, volleyball and tennis, require using your arm to reach overhead. Doing this involves your rotator cuff, the group of muscles and tendons surrounding the shoulder joint, keeping the head of your upper arm bone firmly within the shallow socket of the shoulder. If you suddenly start using these muscles excessively, it can become very painful, says Tanaka. "The rotator cuff is a very tiny muscle that we don't normally work at the gym," explained Tanaka. "It's not an aesthetic muscle that makes you look better, and most people don't work on things you can't see." Building a foundation of strength in this muscle is the best preventative medicine. Rotator cuff stretching can be done by lifting small weights or by tying an exercise band to a door and pulling the band away from the door. Using lower resistance with more repetition is one of the best ways to strengthen these muscles.

Ankle Sprains


Ankle sprains (or inversion injuries) are another common summertime sports injury, says Jeffrey Davis a certified personal trainer and owner of NextLevel Strength & Conditioning in Hermitage, Tennessee. "Hiking, playing volleyball or softball, walking or jogging at the park or on uneven surfaces; all are opportunities for an ankle sprain," Davis said. "The best prevention for an inversion injury is muscle strength on the outside of the foot." Exercises like standing calf raises and heel walks can help to strengthen muscles that support the ankles. Gradually build up these muscles to increase strength and endurance and avoid injury. You should also choose shoes for comfort and fit before style. And be aware of your surroundings, watching out for uneven surfaces or slippery gym floors.

Bicycling Injuries


There's nothing like a summer bike ride, perhaps making your way through scenic countryside or an endurance ride up a steep mountain. But biking can trigger a variety of avoidable injuries such as knee or hip pain, says Lisa Alemi a doctor of physical therapy, certified athletic trainer and creator of the blog Move Mama Move. To avoid these pains, be sure to have your bicycle fitted properly. "A misaligned pedal or seat can lead to poor mechanics in the back, hips and knees leading to pain that can be debilitating," says Alemi. And it should go without saying, if you haven't biked for ages, and then head out on a monumental ride without prior conditioning, it's not likely to end well.

Neck Injuries


In many parts of the country, weekends in the summer mean flocking to the beach. And every summer doctors, nurses, and physical therapists know they are going to see an increase in neck injuries related to body surfing, diving into waves, and hitting a sandbar that was just under the surface, says Jason DeCesari, physical therapist at FOX Rehabilitation in New Jersey. "When enjoying the beach this summer, take a minute and get to know the beach you are using," advises DeCesari. "Walk the area you will be in and make sure you are aware of any hazards. This will ensure that the only reason you need the help of the medical community is if you leave your sunblock in the car."

Trampoline Injuries


Kids on trampolines are yet another source of frequent summertime injuries. Many accidents occur when two people are jumping together and get out of sync, causing one of the people land awkwardly, says Texas-based physician Dr. Barbara Bergin, creator of a medical self-help blog. Common injuries include sprains and broken bones, including broken elbows or wrists. Head and neck injuries are also not unusual. "There are about 100,000 reported trampoline injuries every year. And that's just the reported injuries," says Bergin, who advises jumping one at a time, having padding or protective netting around the trampoline and avoiding extreme tricks.

Muscle Cramps


The heat and activity of summer can often bring on dehydration, which may lead to muscle cramps during sports activities. The best way to prevent this from happening is to drink plenty of water while involved in activity, over and above the recommended 15.5 cups a day for men and 11.5 cups for women. Many foods also have a hydrating effect.

Runner's Knee


While the official term is patellar tendinitis, the repetitive bending motion caused by running or walking more can cause a condition called runner's knee. "This can be common in the summer months as people are often jogging, walking or hiking more frequently," said Lauren Lobert, a physical therapist and owner of Apex Physical Therapy in Brighton, Michigan. The pain is typically located at the front of the knee just below the kneecap and is often worse when first getting up or climbing stairs. Those who suffer from this condition can sometimes find relief using a patellar tendon brace, a strap that goes around the knee just below the joint to help relieve pressure from the tendon. But to prevent it from happening in the first place, make sure you gradually ramp up your activity level. The tendon needs time to adapt to new demands, so slowly increase your speed or distance. Stretching your quadriceps can also help prevent runner's knee.



Usually caused by a blow to head, a concussion is a traumatic brain injury that can cause serious harm and merits medical attention. Concussions can result from being hit by a ball, colliding with another player when playing contact sports like football and soccer, or from a fall. Symptoms often include headache or pressure inside the head, loss of consciousness, and amnesia. Proper use of helmets can often prevent concussions, and they should definitely be worn when cycling or rollerblading.

Bone Fractures


While it may not always be possible to avoid a broken bone, there are steps you can take to strengthen your bones through your diet and exercise. For instance, diets high in vitamin D and calcium increase bone health, and weight-bearing exercises strengthen your bones.