Brad Daugherty Lessons: 5 Top Tips to Minimize Spinal Injury Risks in Sports

tennis player with injured leg

Without a doubt, sports are fun. With summer officially here and vaccines out, you should have greater opportunities to connect and play under the sun, or inside a gym. What many tend to forget is sports are also dangerous, especially to your back. Even professional athletes succumb to back-breaking injuries that ended their careers then and there.

A glorious example here is Brad Daugherty of NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers. After battling with a recurrent back problem (which included a herniated spinal disk), the 7-footer big man had to retire early in 1994. In the process, he cut short what could have been an illustrious basketball career. To note, Daugherty was dubbed “one of the greatest” big men to ever come out of the University of North Carolina.

The spine, of course, is an essential part of the body. Made up of 24 small bones stacked atop each other, the spinal column protects the spinal cord, the communication center between your body and the brain. With the spine in top shape, controlling your movements is a walk in the park. Unfortunately, if you’re not careful you could endanger your spine while playing sports.

While you may not be able to totally eliminate the possibility of spine injuries in sports, you can actually minimize them. Below are 5 expert tips to make that happen.

Warm-Up

Think of muscles as you would water. Water that is cold moves hardly but once boiled, water molecules are rearing to go turning into a gaseous state if the heat adds up. You really can’t make the most of your muscles if they’re not warmed up. That’s exactly why for peak performance Olympic athletes take time to warm and stretch their muscles. To do your warm-up right, here are basic steps:

  • Start slow, stretching only to a point of minimum tension
  • For best results, hold stretches for 10 to 30 seconds – no longer!
  • Do the same for other parts of your body
  • Cool off and stretch after your game to ease tight muscles and ease sore ones

Use Proper Equipment

When you put undue pressure on your spinal column, you could end up with spinal compressions fractures (SCF). For one, many basketball players get SCF after a hard fall especially when they land on their butt. Also, repetitive jumping can be a major cause of spinal compression fractures. Worse, those suffering from osteoporosis are prone to SCF too.

The thing is SCF is extremely painful and affects the buttocks. If there are multiple SCFs, the patient could be hunchbacked. The good news is a kyphoplasty surgeon may be able to treat spinal compression fractures. Balloon kyphoplasty has not only been proven effective to deal with SCF but also the procedure is quick and minimally invasive with patients being able to get back on their feet a day or two after surgery.

The rule of the thumb when it comes to sports is the greater the contact, the greater the risk of injury. In this regard, wearing the right equipment should be able to minimize risks to the spine.

To boot, you should start with your pair of shoes. They must be the proper pair for your particular sports. Additionally, some sports equipment you need depending on your sports are:

  • Eyewear
  • Mouthguard
  • Faceguard
  • Mouthpiece
  • Pads

man drinking water

Stay Hydrated

When you have extremely hot weather (summer) and humidity, you can get heat injuries. To avert the risk of potential injuries, it’s best you use common sense and tone down the heat. Some of the things you can do are:

  • Drink ample amounts of fluids before, during, and post-game.
  • Never put yourself in  a situation under extreme heat for long periods
  • Don light clothing that has maximum skin exposure for sweating
  • Learn to take timely breaks to let your body recover

Don’t Stress Yourself Too Much

When your sports require you a set of motions, you could be exposing yourself to Repetitive Motion Disorders (RMD). Some of these are common: tennis elbow, tendonitis, and bursitis. When motion is repeated over and over countless times, damage to your body parts could follow. Some steps you can take to diminish RMDs are:

  • Learn the correct form of the motions of your sport.
  • Learn to take timely rest periods to allow your muscles to recover.
  • Experiment with “cross-training”, and that is exploring other sports so you don’t put under heavy strain a single muscle group.

Observe a Healthy Lifestyle

Sports are good but it’s not the only factor to consider to get a healthy lifestyle. As many strength and conditioning coaches know, you need to attend to:

  • Ample rest.
  • A superbly balanced diet that’s rich in both fruits and vegetables.

Additionally, you should avoid smoking and overindulgence in alcohol. As you are wont to find, virtue is in the middle. Observing discipline goes a long way to a successful career in sport, injury-free.

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