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Categories > Exercise and Fitness > Exercising safely

Staying in the game

Many sports injuries are a result of training errors rather than accidents. Overuse, improper technique, working out on poor equipment or shoddy surfaces and overzealous activity account for many exercise ailments. But by exercising smart, you can avoid painful conditions like these:

  • Tennis/golfer’s elbow. You don’t need to play these sports to suffer this overuse injury, characterized by tendonitis or inflamed tendons. Tendonitis can affect any joint (swimmer’s shoulder, jumper’s knee, achilles heel) and is caused by repetitive use and poor technique. Work with a coach to learn correct postures, grips and technique for your activity. Strengthen your wrist and forearm and keep your arm bent on swings and serves during racket sports so your biceps and shoulder absorb the greater force.
  • Sprained ankle. The ankles, knees and wrists are most vulnerable to sprains—torn or stretched ligaments—that occur when ligaments are overextended while stressing the joint, such as landing awkwardly or pivoting. A proper warm-up followed by stretching helps increase a joint’s range of motion. Don’t push through fatigue since tired muscles provide less support, which can lead to injury.
  • Pulled hamstring. Prolonged repetitive movement or a sudden and powerful contraction can tear or strain muscles. Condition your body properly to build muscle strength and prevent an imbalance between your hamstring muscles (in the back of the thigh) and your quadriceps (in the front of the thigh).
  • Runner’s knee. Avoid this irritation of cartilage behind the kneecap by wearing good-quality running shoes designed for your foot type (high arch, low arch or neutral) and replace your shoes every 350 miles. Outside knee pain may be caused by irritation of the iliotibial band ligament. Prevent this by strengthening your gluteal muscles, wearing proper shoes and avoiding uneven terrain or same-direction track running.
  • ACL injury. Women are prone to suffering strains or tears to the knee’s anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), which happens when the knee twists while the foot is planted or when landing from a jump, common moves in basketball, soccer or volleyball. Build strength and flexibility in your hamstring and quadriceps muscles. Learn and practice better cutting maneuvers and jumping techniques, such as crouching and bending at the knees and hips.
  • Strained back. Doing too much too soon with unconditioned muscles can leave your back in spasms. For your first golf outing of the season, for example, start with a bucket of balls on the driving range instead of a full 18 holes. Since your back and abdominal muscles work together to support your back, build strength and flexibility in both those muscle groups.