When the long, sunny days of summer arrive, people have a tendency to jump straight into outdoor activities, and sometimes in their excitement for the good weather, they go beyond their physical capabilities. Unfortunately, when people’s bodies aren’t well conditioned or prepared, the more physically demanding outdoor activities like hiking and biking can cause injury—from wrist and ankle sprains or fractures to ACL (knee ligament) tears.
If you or a loved one gets injured this summer, it’s important to seek proper care so you can get moving again. To learn more about the treatment of sports-related injuries, we spoke with Alex DeMoraes, MD, primary care physician from Overlake Medical Clinics at downtown Bellevue; Douglas Patch, MD, an orthopedic surgeon with Bellevue Bone and Joint who practices at Overlake; and Anne Phippard, PT, DPT, OCS, a physical therapist from Overlake’s Outpatient Rehabilitation Services.
Reflections magazine: What are the most common sports-related injuries?
Alex DeMoraes: Ankle and knee sprains are the most common injuries I see. This is followed by overuse injuries of the knee, and then injuries to the hands, elbows and shoulders from falling. I think when summer rolls around most people return to physical activity a little too fast. They tend to go for that long hike, when they should start slowly by walking and then advance to something more aggressive. Additionally, in the summertime we play baseball, basketball and football, which can also lead to injuries.
RM: How are these injuries typically treated?
Douglas Patch: The first step when evaluating a sports-related injury is making the proper diagnosis. Once we understand the specific nature of the injury, we tailor treatment accordingly. In general, most acute injures can be treated safely with rest, ice and anti-inflammatories, if these medicines are safe for the patient to take.
RM: How can physical therapy help?
Anne Phippard: Physical therapy helps improve flexibility, strength and stability at the site of the injury as well as other areas of the body. It is important to identify what factors may have contributed to the injury so it does not occur again. Some of these contributing factors may include muscle imbalances, poor mechanics and improper preparation.
RM: When might surgery be needed?
Douglas Patch: Surgery is one of many treatment options for sports injuries or arthritis. Making the right treatment choice depends on a thorough discussion between the patient and his or her health-care provider about the pros and cons of each choice. If the choice is surgery, the patient should understand what kind of results can be reasonably expected if the surgery goes well and what the potential risks and complications are.
RM: How can injuries like these be avoided?
Alex DeMoraes: Reintroduce yourself to sports more slowly. Instead of just starting a running program, start a walking program first then advance to jogging and eventually running. Slowly advancing into any new activity when starting sports is usually the best way to avoid injuries. Be cautious and listen to your body; it will tell you when to slow down.
Anne Phippard: Start with a dynamic warm-up prior to an athletic activity, such as walking a couple minutes prior to your run. Cool down and stretch afterward. Other activities like gardening and spring-cleaning are best achieved in multiple short periods versus all at once.
RM: Can extra weight cause injury to the joints?
Douglas Patch: Body weight has a significant effect on knee and hip function. The magnitude of the forces that go across these joints when walking are roughly three times one’s body weight with each step. That is a lot of force. Avoiding weight gain when you have arthritis in one of these joints is very important. For every pound of body weight you lose, your hips or knees feel relief.
RM: When should someone see a doctor?
Alex DeMoraes: Most injuries that include mild aches and pains and mild strains usually resolve on their own. If you have a lower-extremity injury and are able to walk with minimal discomfort, most times treatment can be as simple as rest and some anti-inflammatory medications. If at any time you have severe pain, or are unable to walk or move certain joints, it is important to see your health-care provider.
Prepare Kids for Fall Sports
Keep your kids safe from sports-related injuries, too, by making sure they receive a sports physical before they start a new season. Physicals consist of a medical history and physical examination. The exam helps determine whether it’s safe to participate in a particular sport. A sports physical can be completed at one of our three urgent care clinics. Visit overlakehospital.org/urgentcare for more information.
Overlake offers numerous clinics on the Eastside where you can find skilled primary care providers; visit overlakehospital.org/clinics to find one close to work or home. Physical therapy is available (physician referral required) at Overlake’s Outpatient Rehabilitation Services; call 425.688.5900 for more information. To learn more about Overlake’s Joint Replacement program, call 425.688.5579.