7 Serious Injuries You Can Avoid



Ankle Sprain


Case study: 40-year-old male presents with pain and swelling of lateral left ankle. Patient stepped off a curb while jogging. Suspected inversion sprain.

In the ER, ankle injuries are like drunks—they just keep coming. Sprains account for roughly 80 percent of ankle injuries, and of those, the majority are what we call inversion sprains. These happen when the foot is forced to turn inward beyond the limits of the ankle ligaments. The ligaments on the outside part of the ankle tear, and you go down in a heap.

Teach your body these 18 health tricks, and you may save yourself a trip to the ER.

There are two main reasons for the endless parade of ankle sprains I see: (1) The guy was playing a sport like football or soccer that requires a lot of stop-start, lateral movements he may not have been conditioned for, or (2) he wasn't wearing proper footwear, such as high-cut boots for hiking or high-tops on the court.

Back in high school, I sustained a bad ankle sprain in my freshman hoops season because I was messing around in low-cut sneakers with no ankle support. Missed the remaining games.

ER Avoidance


Work your ankles. Ankle stiffness in the forward direction (dorsiflexion) has less to do with tight calf muscles than with weak muscles on the outside part of the shin. Build strength by doing simple toe raises. In a seated position, lift your toes as high as they'll go while keeping your heel on the ground. Hold for a six count. Do 2 or 3 sets of 12 to 20 repetitions.

Protect yourself. If you've already suffered a sprain, you need to strengthen your weakened ankle to prevent reinjury. Stand on one foot as you brush your teeth, switching feet halfway through. Do this every time you brush. It's a great way to improve your balance and increase your ankle stability.

Of course, you also need proper footwear, and if you've had a previous ankle injury, you should wear a brace. Weakened ligaments tend to stay that way; more than a third of people who've sprained an ankle end up spraining it again. Finally, if you're playing touch football (or any other sport, for that matter), avoid uneven playing surfaces or torn-up fields.

Hamstring Pull


Case study: 45-year-old male describes sharp pain in left posterior thigh and buttock while walking. Subject was sprinting to first base during a coed softball game when he experienced acute burning sensation.

You've seen the pro athlete pull up on the field, his hands glued to his butt, his face twisted in pain. You'd think he'd just been shot. Out of the camera's eye, weekend warriors go down with hamstring pulls or strains with even greater frequency. Jeter wannabes, I call them—guys who forget that they haven't been playing competitive baseball, football, or soccer on a daily basis, who have poor flexibility, and who are overdoing it with running or jumping activities.

Depending on the severity of the tear, most hamstring pulls can usually be treated at home with the classic RICE prescription—rest, ice, compression, and elevation. But recovery time can stretch from a few weeks to a few months.

ER Avoidance


Lose the lopsidedness. The combination of strong quads and weak hamstrings shoots your risk of injury to either muscle through the roof. Many gym standards, such as squats, lunges, and leg presses, overemphasize the quads at the expense of the hamstrings. Vary your routine by adding stepups and straight-leg deadlifts, which train the hamstrings as hip extensors.

Stepup. Stand facing stairs or an adjustable step platform. Place your right foot squarely on a step so that your thigh and lower leg form a 90-degree angle. Push your body up until you're standing on your right leg on the step. Pause, and step down slowly onto your left foot. Keep your back straight and your abdominal muscles tight. Do 2 or 3 sets of 8 to 12 repetitions. Add light dumbbells as you gain strength.

Straight-leg deadlift. Follow these instructions precisely in order to maintain good form and avoid injury. With your feet and hands shoulder-width apart, grasp a weighted barbell, palms down. From an upright position, keeping your arms straight and your back slightly arched, slowly lower the barbell by shifting your hips back. Your knees should bend only slightly. Lower the barbell as far as your hamstrings will allow. Return to a standing position by contracting your hamstrings and glutes. Do 2 or 3 sets of 5 to 8 reps.

Shoulder Injury


Case study: 28-year-old male complains of severe shoulder pain consistent with AC separation. Subject was playing football when he landed hard on shoulder with tackler on top.

Separation anxiety. That's what anyone bombing down a hill or about to get blitzed by a linebacker should be feeling, because a shoulder separation (known as an AC, or acromioclavicular, joint separation) or a clavicle fracture may be up next. Either injury can arise from playing contact sports, like football, rugby, or hockey, although a foosh can cause a shoulder injury, too.

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