The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that nearly nine million Americans pack a full week’s worth of exercise into just two days. These occasional athletes, also known as weekend warriors, account for the largest population encountering nonprofessional sport-related injuries, which add up to health care costs exceeding more than $18 billion per year.
The most common injuries weekend warriors face include rotator cuff injuries, Achilles tendonitis, golf or tennis elbow, acute knee pain and ankle sprains.
“Weekend warriors and recreational athletes suffer from injuries at a rate that far surpasses their everything-in-moderation fitness counterparts,” says Erica Meloe, owner of Velocity Physio and a member of the private practice section of the American Physical Therapy Association. “Age and physical condition play significant roles in these injuries, as tissue loses its elasticity and are not conditioned properly for rigorous activity. But injuries can be minimized with a dose of common sense prevention.”
Meloe recommends starting with a thorough exam by a physician to determine overall health and identify any physical limitations, and offers the following steps to minimize injuries:
Rethink the personal trainer. There is no one more knowledgeable and well equipped to help you understand your musculo-skeletal system than a physical therapist. A physical therapist will assess strengths and weaknesses from which a comprehensive fitness plan can be tailored to best fit each individual’s needs and goals, including a stair-step of preliminary goals that help achieve end goals.
Always warm up and cool down. Warmed muscles are ready for activity and are less susceptible to injury. Warming up and cooling down should become part of every workout.
Do some light stretching. Often, weekend warriors skip stretching altogether, and sometimes overstretch. Routine light stretching helps warm muscles up and increases range of motion.
Commit to fitness the entire week. To eliminate muscle shock, introduce physical activity throughout the week that includes cardiovascular activity, stretching and weightlifting for balanced strength and conditioning.
Rest and listen to your body. Consecutive days of training translate into increased injuries. While many athletes think the more they train, the better they'll play, the truth is a tired body is more susceptible to muscle strain and other injuries. Consistent pains and strains over time can be a sign of health problems, and are among the most frequent causes that derail a fitness regime.