As a sports medicine professional, a mom, and an active adult who had her workout routine ruined by the shut down, I am anxious to see what the landscape of sports, fitness, and injuries look like in the coming months. New Jersey has entered Phase 2 of the reopening plan, including the start of non-contact sports participation on June 22. Fitness centers/Gyms are also scheduled to re–open in this second phase of re–opening, but there is no set date as of yet. With these restrictions lifting, I have several concerns swirling around in my head.
This week I am expecting a flood of teams practicing and putting young athletes through the paces of getting into shape. I compare this flurry to the preseason training that typically starts in August where coaches and players are motivated to get ready for their seasons. As a sports PT, I am well aware that preseason is the time when most injuries occur. During August and September, my PT clinic is flooded with injuries from shin splints, back pain, and ankle sprains to stress fractures, growth plate inflammation and ACL tears. This summer’s “preseason” will likely be no different in that regard. Most athletes have been sidelined from sports participation for the past 3 months. Some may have continued their activity with virtual training sessions, at home workouts, and general fitness routines. Many others just sat on the couch doing nothing for their fitness during their quarantine time. Like many other sports medicine professionals, I am worried. I know that kids are going to be excited to be back on the field with their teammates. I know coaches are going to want to get down to business and try to squeeze in some late summer scrimmages/games/tournaments to get their teams back up to competitive levels. There must be a plan in place to gradually condition, load and train these young athletes’ bodies and minimize their risk for injury. Coaches, parents, and athletes must all be thinking about what is safe for these young athletes. My advice is, take it slow, increase loading gradually, work on conditioning, and listen to your body. Another factor to consider is, these team practices will take place outside in the heat of the summer, which after being inside for so much time this spring, our bodies will need to acclimate. Heat related illnesses are real and affect those less conditioned more easily.
For the active adult who has missed their regular workouts over the past 3 months, I too am concerned. I myself am in this category. Although I come to work everyday in my PT clinic/sports performance facility, I stopped using the facility for my regular adult fitness workouts. Classes were cancelled so I just participated in exercising on my own. Walking was the main staple of my quarantine routine. Some weeks I walked 25 miles and other weeks I waked only 5 miles. Some weeks I did a few yoga video workouts, other weeks I did none. Some days I did a few body–weight squats, lunges, bridges and core exercises, other days I did nothing. I know there are many people who stayed self–motivated and kept up with a rigorous exercise routine. But I’m sure many of you can relate to my irregular exercise routine. This along with sitting more throughout the day, not going to work or travelling, or just plain sheltering in place takes it’s toll on our bodies. No different than the young athlete, we must have a plan to get back to activity to reduce the risk of injury and ensure that we are not setting ourselves up for future problems.
So, I ask each of you reading this to think about what your fitness, sports or health goals are for yourself. Come up with a plan that helps you build a healthy foundation before pushing too hard to return to your “pre–COVID” self. I challenge you to start from the ground up and work on any issues that may have crept up during these past 3 months – low back pain, weight gain, knee soreness, or just plain weakness. Think about your plan and where you want to be in the next 3 months, and make sure you don’t end up sitting on the bench and missing out on the sports or activities you love. This would be a huge disappointment if you end up sidelined due to pain or injury. As someone who loves to promote prevention, I encourage you to reach out to me or any of my staff if there is something we can help you with. Our mission has always been and continues more so now to provide the opportunity for real change in people who want to improve their health, their performance, and their lives. Our entire TTR staff strives to provide a collaborative approach between healthcare providers and fitness experts in a positive and supportive environment that sets the stage for successful outcomes. Our entire team is here for you and committed to providing solutions that focus on YOU and your individual health and performance goals.