Has this happened to you? You began a new exercise regimen or joined a weekend sports league with the best intentions of becoming more physically active. But instead of getting fit, you got hurt. Maybe you twisted a joint suddenly, over-exerted yourself or fell wrong – but now you’re in pain and there’s a lot of swelling to go along with it. What do you do? We interviewed Dr. Scott Wenger, an orthopedic surgeon here at North Hills Hospital, and asked him when it’s time to seek out an orthopedic specialist after a patient experiences a sports-related injury.
Know Your Body
Stresses and strains are par for the course during physical activity and dependent on each individual’s fitness and flexibility. You know the difference between normal body aches and a potential injury better than anyone. If you do experience an injury, Dr. Wenger suggests that you do the following:
- Stop all activity immediately and do not “play through” any pain.
- Follow the “R.I.C.E.” method: rest the injury, ice it, use compression with an elastic or ACE bandage and then elevate it.
- If the injury does not improve in a day or two, see a physician.
The Warning Signs
Once you meet with a physician, you may discover that a specialist is recommended. Dr. Wenger explained that there are some specific warning signs that may indicate the need for immediate specialized care. These include:
- Persistent joint swelling
- A decreased range of motion
- An obvious deformity
- Joint instability
- Failed improvement
Your primary care physician will likely order an x-ray to determine the extent of the damage. If your injury does need the attention of a specialist, you will receive a referral.
Dr. Wenger offered some important suggestions to avoid serious injury in the future. Be sure to:
- Warm up and stretch before all physical activity, and then cool down and stretch again afterward.
- When beginning a new workout routine, start slowly and acclimate your body to increased activity over time.
- Engage in cross conditioning and core stability workouts to build muscle strength in joints and increase stability. Total body conditioning will allow for more mobility and flexibility during strenuous activity, which may lessen the possibility of injury.
- Remember that age and physical fitness do affect your risk of injury. Weekend warriors who suddenly exert themselves like they did 20 years prior could put themselves at great risk for injury.
Do you have questions about how to prevent sports injuries? Would you like to schedule an appointment with a physician who specializes in orthopedics or sports medicine? Please contact North Hills Hospital at (817) 255-1000. To request an appointment with Dr. Wenger, please call (817) 616-0700 or visit his website.