20 Ways to Stay in the Game

They shoot lame horses. Lame athletes, they send to physical therapy. That's why we're fans of not getting hurt in the first place. Here are 20 ways to reach the finish line and, best of all, the bar--to brag about it. You don't want to waste your best stories on an E.R. nurse, after all.

1. Stop and start to fight muscle strains.
Sprint-based sports like baseball and basketball churn out a lot of lower-body muscle strains. The fix: stop-and-start drills. "If you train your body to do something that's specific to your sport, then that training should take you through a full season," says Arizona Diamondbacks veteran shortstop Royce Clayton. Try his drill: Run 40 yards at about 70 percent of your maximum effort, slow to a jog for 10 yards, then pick it up again for another 40 yards. Repeat four or five times. You'll be conditioned to sprint to first base, slow down, and charge for second, or run out for a pass if your teammate steals the basketball. There's glory for the first man downcourt.

2. Crouch, tiger.
About 70 percent of ACL injuries occur when players are pivoting or landing awkwardly after a jump. Hitting the ground with your knees bent instead of nearly straight greatly reduces the risk, according to a report published in the Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.

3. Figure the heatstroke equation.
Heatstroke harms many an unwary athlete. Do the math: If the temperature and relative humidity combined equal 160, stay cool and hydrated, says Dave Janda, M.D., director of the Institute for Preventative Sports Medicine. If the number tops 180, exercise indoors, or move to Canada.

4. Protect your nose.
Once you wipe out, your surfboard becomes a weapon--boards inflict 55 percent of all surfing injuries. Make it less dangerous by applying a rubber "nose guard" to your board ($20, ronjons.com). Acting as a front bumper, it wraps around and caps the pointy front end of your board. "If it hits you, it doesn't really hurt," says pro windsurfer Tristan Boxford.

5. Replace your funky equipment.
Stressing joints that are out of alignment, also referred to as overuse, is a major cause of sports injuries. Even a bike or racket that's not properly sized for you can cause improper movement patterns that spawn overuse injuries, says Mark Verstegen, M.S., C.S.C.S., director of performance for the NFL Players Association. The extra hundred bucks you spend at the pro shop can save you 10 times that at the orthopedic doctor's office. The choice is yours, sport.

6. Correct your funky swing.
"If your technique isn't right, you'll predispose your body to injury," says Edward Laskowski, M.D., codirector of the Mayo Clinic sports medicine center. That's why you need to seek advice from the golf pro, the basketball coach, the trainer, the mountain guide. M.J. and Shaq didn't win NBA titles until they met Phil Jackson, after all; you're only as good as the advice you get.

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