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Weekend Warrior? Tips to Avoid Injuries While Staying Active

It may seem like just yesterday that you were hanging out with friends, playing basketball, soccer or flag football every other night. But then life happened. A job and a family gobbled up your free time, leaving you a few precious hours on Saturdays and Sundays for your athletic cravings.

Welcome to the world of the weekend warrior.

People just like you can be found on softball fields, weight rooms, jogging trails and tennis courts. It’s better than the alternative – doing nothing physical. But the life of the weekend warrior brings its own special set of problems and increased risks for a wide range of injuries.

Risk Factors

Our bodies generally do what we train them to do. And when you teach yours to live a largely sedentary lifestyle – with all those hours spent sitting or working behind a desk – that’s what your body gets used to. It doesn’t respond well to sudden bursts of activity on Saturday morning.

And we get older, age becomes a major risk factor in the life of a weekend warrior. In your teens, you felt good as new after a few days of rest. But as you hit your late 20s, 30s and beyond, your body doesn’t heal and adapt as well as it once did. When you get hurt, it may take more than those five days between weekends to properly heal. And if you smoke, have diabetes or are overweight, you are at a higher risk of injury.

There is no magic number when your age becomes an obstacle. The longer you’re able to maintain a relatively stable and normal level of activity, the longer your body will respond the way you want it to.

Common Injuries

Considering the dynamics of the lifestyle, it’s probably not surprising that the most common injuries generally fall into two groups – those that result from a single traumatic event (sprains and breaks, for example) and those related to over-use (such as tendonitis).

Here are some of the more common injuries experienced by weekend warriors:

  • Sprained ankle – Risk is increased for people with a history of them
  • Tennis elbow – repetitive motion injury, also known as “golfer’s elbow”
  • Achilles tendonitis – tight leg muscles can contribute
  • Shin splints – Common with distance runners
  • Pulled groin – More common for people who play football or soccer
  • Rotator cuff tear – Shoulder ligament damage, can be from repetitive activities or sudden trauma
  • Pulled hamstring – Participants in any sport are vulnerable
  • ACL tears – Knee injuries that could require surgery

Stay Safe and Healthy

There are a range of things you can do to stay healthy and avoid getting hurt on the weekends, including:

  • Develop a proper warm-up routine
  • Stretch before starting your activity
  • If you feel pain, don’t try to push through it
  • Stay hydrated
  • Allow time for recovery, including a cooldown period after you finish

The most important thing is to understand what you can and cannot do. If you’re not putting in any athletic work during the week, you can’t charge into the weekend, expecting to go all-out. You’ll need to dial it down a notch.

It’s easy to get nostalgic and remember what it was like for you at peak athletic performance. And it’s natural to feel like you can still do that. It’s just not realistic.

This psychological part of the equation can be particularly troublesome in team sports. If you aren’t careful, you can let peer pressure push your body beyond its limits. There may not be any joy in being the first person on the soccer field to call it quits early or ask for a personal break – but your body will thank you on Monday morning.

Also understand that some activities carry more risk that others, including:

  • Anything that calls for sudden bursts of speed (soccer or basketball, for example) or effort (heavy weightlifting) can put serious strain on those muscles and tendons.
  • Repetitive stress injuries are more common for long-distance runners, bikers or swimmers.
  • High-impact sports like rugby and flag football are more likely to result in traumatic injuries like ankle sprains, broken fingers and concussions.

We often think about sprains and repetitive stress injuries when looking at the risks faced by weekend warriors. But we should also keep in mind that once men hit their 30s and women hit their 40s, we start to see increased risk for heart disease and related problems. That’s a great reason to follow the guidelines suggesting that every adult get at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise each week – and not just on the weekends.

It’s also a good idea to talk with your doctor about your level of physical activity during your annual physical.

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