Many athletes overwork their bodies to pursue excellence in sports.

Basketball players often sustain knee injuries; football players frequently strain their hamstrings; gymnasts are prone to back injuries. All athletes who exercise too hard and too frequently are at risk of developing overtraining syndrome; wherein the body isn’t given enough time to recover between workouts. Also, athletes metabolize energy quickly and sweat out many essential nutrients. Without maintaining a proper diet, athletes’ bodies are unable to repair muscles, bones and tendons damaged during workouts.

With all the careful consideration athletes must maintain to stay healthy, it’s no surprise so many players wind up on the sidelines every season. If you’re an athlete who tends to ignore your body’s signals to slow down, take five or stop, read these important health tips from Foothills Sports Medicine in Phoenix.

  • Stay hydrated.
    In the summer, at our centers throughout the Valley, we regularly see athletes who aren’t properly hydrated. Without water, the volume of blood in your body decreases. This reduces your ability to transfer heat and forces your heart to beat faster, often limiting your ability to perform. In a recent health study, runners ran a 12K race 2.5 minutes slower when they were dehydrated. Dehydration can also cause muscle cramping and fatigue. The Phoenix sun is incredibly powerful – keep a water bottle with you at all times.
  • Eat just enough protein.
    Most athletes know that protein helps build muscle. Many athletes don’t know, however, that the body stores extra protein as fat. Experts recommend that endurance athletes eat about 90 grams of protein per day – it can be detrimental to your health to overindulge.
  • Sleep well.
    Optimal sleep means optimal performance. In 2009, Stanford University published a study which found that getting extra sleep over several weeks improves performance, mood and alertness for athletes. Many of the athletes participating in the study even set personal records after a few weeks of extra sleep. Turn up the A/C during those famously hot Phoenix summer nights – the cold will help you sleep better.
  • Skip the alcohol.
    Though alcohol has many negative effects on most anyone’s overall health, athletes should be particularly wary. Drinking alcohol decreases growth hormones and testosterone production, cancelling out gains made at the gym. It also impairs cognitive function while promoting dehydration, protein breakdown, and weight gain. Although it might be tempting to celebrate a hard-earned win with a night of heavy drinking, you’re limiting your athletic performance in the long run.
  •  Be consistent.
    Establish a weekly routine which works opposing muscle groups without overexerting any. Also, remember to stretch before and after every workout to prevent injury. Consistency yields the best results, so create a schedule you can stick to.

For more health and fitness advice, trust Foothills Sports Medicine in Phoenix. Visit one of our 15 locations for physical therapy you can trust to help you achieve your optimum level of comfort and fitness.

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If you (or your child) are getting burnt out and injured playing and practicing for just one sport, stop and read on. Besides the obvious overuse injuries, there are many benefits for young athletes to take a break from their sport of choice and participate in other activities through the year.

As the money paid to professional athletes has grown, as the competition for college scholarships has increased, the importance of becoming very good at one sport has increased as well. In years past most kids would play 2-3 sports at different times during the year. We would end one season, maybe rest for a few weeks and then begin another. This is happening less and less over time. There is a tremendous amount of pressure being placed on kids to choose one sport and dedicate the whole year in refining the skills it takes to perform this one sport well.  This philosophy may help the young athlete hone certain skills at a faster rate than others, but it also poses some significant problems.

The incidence of overuse type injuries has increased dramatically in recent years.  Dr. James Andrews, one of the countries leaders in Sports Medicine and Orthopedic Surgery, has seen a 4 times increase in these overuse injures in the past 5 years. More surgeries for chronic sports injuries are being performed on younger and younger kids. As the young athlete is asked to perform the same tasks, same skills and have the same stresses placed on the body by one single sport the repetitive trauma accumulates without the time to recover.  This constant bombardment in young, growing tissue causes breakdown and injury. The change over to a new sport every few months places different stresses on the body and allows for the tissues that were used in the previous sport to recover and heal.  Common sense would dictate that if a young athlete specializes in one sport, they would become better and reach higher levels of college and professional participation. However as Dr. Andrews points out, the increased incidence of injury tends to lead these promising athletes to miss significant playing time and ultimately leave the sport they love.

Another benefit to playing multiple sports is the development of more complete athleticism. Different sports require different skills which may compliment those in the primary sport. The footwork and endurance needed in soccer will help improve the ability to play basketball or football for example. The hand-eye coordination in baseball will help in volleyball, hockey and other sports. Each sport will have something that ultimately leads to the improvement in the whole athletic package.

If the young athlete is not interested in playing other sports, there are ways to minimize the risk of over use injuries. Even professional athletes have an off season where they stop playing their sport. This does not necessarily mean to stop being active, but it does mean to rest from the repetitive strain caused by the sport. The higher level athletes will use their off seasons to work on their strength, flexibility and endurance while allowing sport specific traumatized areas to heal. Sports Medicine / Sport Conditioning centers with knowledgeable staff are great resources that can lead you into improving the young athlete in safe and effective ways.

The bodies of young athletes are a growing and developing mechanism. They cannot handle the stresses placed by doing something over and over for a long period of time without some recovery time. Playing multiple sports, seeing a Sport Conditioning Specialist, and participating in FAST type training classes during rest periods from the primary sport will allow for development of the athlete as a whole and ultimately lead to improved overall performance.

 

Hint: It has nothing to do with a gun.

A trigger point usually consists of a small band of muscle which feels knotty. It is sometimes painful when touched, but the pain is often referred to another area of the body. A trigger point in the shoulder, for example, might cause a headache.

What causes a trigger point? Acute trauma or repetitive micro-trauma may lead to the development of stress on muscle fibers and the formation of trigger points. Trigger points are thought to be due to an accumulation within deep muscle of the waste products of physical activity. This causes localized muscle tension and spasm which may make the points feel like small nodules.

Patients may have regional, persistent pain resulting in a decreased range of motion in the affected muscles. These include muscles used to maintain body posture, such as those in the neck, shoulders, hip and pelvic girdle.

Trigger points may manifest as tension headache, jaw pain (TMJ), tinnitus (ringing in the ear), decreased range of motion in the legs, low back and neck pain. Trigger points have also been found to be related to shoulder pain, carpal tunnel, sciatica, hip/knee pain and foot/ankle pain. Usually, a physical therapist will ‘feel-out’ a hypersensitive bundle, or knot, of muscle fiber associated with a trigger point. Hands-on pressure of the trigger point will elicit pain directly over the affected area and/or cause radiation of pain toward a zone of reference and a local twitch response.

Physical therapy has been shown to be one of the most effective treatments to inactivate trigger points and provide prompt relief of symptoms. Physical therapy treatment, such as the strain/counter-strain technique, ischemic compression, cupping, massage, myofascial release, active release techniques, electrical stimulation, ultrasound, joint mobilization therapy and corrective exercises, are used to ease the tension, numbness and pain associated with trigger points.

The key to success with trigger point symptoms is to be consistent with therapy and to know what caused the tightness in the first place so that you can avoid it in the future.

It’s hard enough as an adult to regulate body temperature and water consumption in the hot Arizona sun. With kids, it’s even more critical!

With the arrival of summer in Arizona one thing comes to mind HEAT!  As children get out school and start summertime activities it is important to guard against a very real danger, heat exhaustion/heat stroke.  Heat exhaustion/heat stroke is a heat related illness that occurs when the body cannot adequately cool itself through sweating.   Typically, heat exhaustion/heat stroke occurs when temperatures reach greater than 90 degrees F, or in other words every day in an Arizona summer.   Children are at a greater risk of getting heat exhaustion/heat stroke because their sweat rate is lower than that of adults.  The symptoms of heat exhaustion/heat stroke that parents should be looking for are heavy sweating, paleness, muscle cramps, dizziness, headache, nausea or vomiting.  As heat exhaustion progresses to heat stroke the victim may get confused as well.  In order to prevent heat stroke, parents should make sure that children hydrate before summertime activities in which they will be outside for an extended time (one hour or more).

Guidelines for hydration:

  • The hydration process starts the night before, kids should drink at least 32 oz. of extra fluid the night before (soda does not count , only water, Gatorade and fruit juice)
  • The day of the activity the child should drink 16 to 32 oz. of fluid 2 hours before (this allows time to assimilate the fluid)
  • During the activity the child should drink 8 oz. every 20-30 min.
  • After the activity 1 oz. of fluid should be consumed for every 1 oz. of fluid lost.
  • If your child has any of the symptoms of heat stroke especially confusion, nausea or vomiting seek medical attention immediately.

Have fun and stay safe this summer from all of us at Foothills Physical Therapy and Sports Medicine.

Every few years it seems there are buzz words in the fitness industry that gain popularity. Lately it’s the phrase “functional movement”. Although this is certainly nothing new in the arena of physical therapy, it has caught-on in mainstream exercise classes around the country.  The question is…

 What is Functional Movement?

Functional movements take place in multi-planes of motion with the use of multiple joints. These movements require the firing of multiple muscle groups in various positions, ranges of motion and varying intensity to achieve a common goal. For instance, in order to swing a golf club you have to tighten your right hip, rotate your shoulders over your hips, raise your arms across your body while maintaining your head still, allowing rotation through the spine along one axis. Pause, and reverse that entire process in a near mirror image back to the same point at which you started. Another example of functional movement is as simple as bending down and reaching over to pick-up your child and rotating through your core to put him/her in the car seat (or to help down a slide as seen in the photo). Functional training can be utilized after an injury or in preparation for an activity to mimic those actions and break them down into more basic components in order to achieve your “functional goal.”

 Why is Functional Movement Training Important?

Research has shown incredible gains in strength, balance and overall decreased joint pain with functional training. Functional training develops a healthy and well-developed body. It promotes kinesthetic awareness and body control, balanced musculature and a stronger core. Thus, functional training may decrease the number of injuries sustained in an individual’s life and sport.

 Who Can Benefit From Functional Movement Training?

Anyone can benefit from functional movement training. From the simple task of standing up from a chair or getting in and out of a vehicle, to training for your next tennis match, functional training attempts to adapt or develop exercises which allow individuals to perform the activities of daily life more easily and without injuries.

How Can I Tell if I Have Functional Movement Limitations?

There are many functional movement assessment tools. One simple test for the shoulder is to reach behind your back with both arms, one from above your head and one from behind your back, try touching your finger-tips together in the middle of your back. Another movement in the lower body is to assume a lunge position, with feet a good distance apart, then slowly lower your back knee down to the ground and back up again. If you are unable to perform either of these activities, you may want to seek a professional assessment from your local physical therapist.

With recent shows like “The Biggest Loser,” programs like P90X and in Arizona year-round baseball for kids, Americans are inundated with the message that more is better when it comes to sports and fitness.

We are told that the harder, longer and more often we work out the better we are going to be, feel and look. However, like everything in life moderation should be the focus.   As stress goes up in one area of a person’s life i.e. work or school, then less energy must be expended in another area, if not we run the risk of doing serious damage to our physical and mental well-being.

Working out and playing sports, while being a great way to improve athleticism and physicality, can also be an intense stressor to the body.  Therefore, we must understand that it is not always about how much and how many times you workout or practice, but how much and how many workouts or practices you can recover from.  Because if you workout too much you can actually do more harm than good.

Therefore, let me offer this suggestion the next time you feel the need to perform that intense body destroying workout or complete that gut busting practice and think to yourself if your mind and body might not be better served by some intense body replenishing recovery.