Michael L Gross, MD  
Male, 64
Hackensack,Westwood, NJ

Specialties: orthopedic surgery, sports medicine

Interests: Orthopedics, Knee and Shoulder Arthroscopy
Active Orthopedics & Sports Medicine
Hackensack, NJ
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Top 10 Ways to Avoid a Sports Injury

Feb 18, 2009 - 8 comments

sports injury


sports medicine



Participation in athletic activities of all kinds, at all ages, is at an all time high.  Accordingly, sports injuries are also on the rise.  However, many injuries can be avoided.  According to the American College of Sports Medicine, up to 50 percent of all athletic injuries can be avoided.  The National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases conservatively estimates that athletic injury rates could be reduced by 25 percent if all athletes followed essential safety, conditioning and preventive strategies.  The following 10 tips are meant as a guide to the pursuit of that goal.

1. Consult your physician before starting any exercise or sports program.  A proper medical evaluation can spot potential problems and correct weaknesses that may be worsened by starting a sports program. Previous injuries can result in chronic problems if they have not been properly rehabilitated.  Ideally, a pre-season physical should take place within 6 weeks of the start of the season.

2. Get in shape before starting a new activity or sport.  Be in shape when you start, don’t expect your sport to get you in shape.  Follow an off season conditioning program that is sport specific, that is, one that is designed for your sport. Most sports require a balance of strength, agility, flexibility, co-ordination and endurance.  Off season training should address these areas as well as provide instruction to improve overall technique.

3. Build gradually.  Don’t try to do too much too soon. Slowly increase the time and intensity of your work out routines.  If running, don’t increase your mileage or overall time by more than 10 percent per week.  In weight training, avoid increasing the resistance or repetitions too drastically too quickly.  Overuse injuries occur when you increase your exercise intensity more quickly than your body can adapt to the change.

4. Wear proper protective gear.  Helmets are essential for biking, skiing snowboarding, and rollerblading; as well as for team sports such as football, hockey, baseball, and lacrosse. Protective eyewear and mouth guards ale equally important to prevent injuries.  In addition, make sure your equipment is correct for your sport.  Running shoes are great for marathons, but don’t offer enough support for basketball, soccer or tennis.  Needless to say, all equipment must be well fitting and in good condition.  It is particularly important to check children’s’ equipment before the start of each season since their sizes can change so rapidly.  Don’t forget, the field is part of your equipment too.  Make sure it is in good shape and free of debris.  

5. Warm up and stretch before you start.  A good warm up should last 15 – 20 minutes. Start with an easy cardiovascular workout to raise your body temperature and heart rate, and finish with slow easy stretching.  Stretch slowly and don’t bounce.  Stretching lengthens muscles while it increases blood flow and muscle temperature.  When you’re finished, your muscles are ready to perform and are less likely to be injured.

6. Use proper form.  Sprained ligaments and strained muscles often result from poor technique.  Good body mechanics will help to prevent a lower back injury while swinging a golf club, hockey stick, or baseball bat. Good form increases efficiency and prevents overuse injury.  Training with a coach or sports trainer to learn and maintain good form can prevent bad habits and prevent chronic injuries in the future.

7. Hydrate.  Even experienced athletes have been shown to drastically underestimate their fluid needs.  Adequate fluid intake is essential for athletes and all sports participants before, during and after exercise.  Ultimately the decision to use a sports drink or plain water depends on the duration and intensity of the exercise.

8. Don’t overdo it.  The whole idea of no pain no gain is obsolete and went out in the 60’s.  Learn to differentiate normal mild soreness, from serious pain and stiffness.  Don’t train hard every day; avoid overuse injuries by alternating hard and easy days as well as hard and easy weeks.  Don’t be trapped by the “weekend warrior” syndrome.  Try to do a little exercise every day rather than cram too many activities into the weekend.  Listen to your body and watch for signs of fatigue.  When you’re feeling down, ease off.

9. Cross train when possible.  Varying exercise routines and styles prevents boredom, burn out, and overuse injuries.  Exercise routines should not only concentrate on strength, but should include elements of cardiovascular training as well as balance and coordination conditioning.  Team practices should also be varied and contain different activity periods of varied intensity and purpose.  Mixing routines and workouts allows for an increased number of muscles and positions to be used and again can prevent overuse injuries.

10.   If injuries occur, don’t play when you’re injured.  Although this list is meant to prevent many injuries, injuries my still occur. When this happens, don’t try to “play through” the pain.  Rest and let the injury heal before returning to sport.  Continuing to play can only make it worse and may lead to chronic problems.  Taking a few days off, may prevent the loss of an entire season or career.  Finally, remember RICE: rest, ice, compression, and elevation, the best treatment for an acute injury.

Good luck and play safe!

Post a Comment
Avatar universal
by TheCrow, Feb 19, 2009
Dr. Gross,

     First, thank you for the excellent list of things to do to prevent athletic injuries.

    I have a comment on your paragraph 6, Using Proper Form.  I had a microdiscectomy a couple of years ago between Lumbar 4 and Lumbar 5.

    I haven't played golf in several years because of this back trouble--though the surgery has left me pain-free.
I have read of a couple of different back braces that provides support for this area of the back.  
One is called the Cybertech back brace (also called the Cybertech orthosis or lumbar orthosis and is both claimed to be the best because of its "...ingenous yet simple pulley system."  The book states that Dr. Stephen Hochschuler a spine surgeon and Chcairman of the Texas Back Institute favors the Cybertech.  (These references are from
Back Pain Remedies for Dummies, published in 1999.

Do you have an opinion about the kind of back brace to use for golf?  Perhaps there have been improvements since the book was published in 1999.  What kind of professional person would sell and fit such a device?

Thank you,


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by Michael L Gross, MDBlank, Feb 19, 2009
I would see an orthotist (a brace specialist) or a spine specialist and let them recommend the propr brace.

Avatar universal
by TheCrow, Mar 02, 2009
Thank you, Doctor.


Avatar universal
by tifferz36, Mar 04, 2009
Hello Dr. Gross, I have a question for you.  My daughter plays basketball and soccer.  During basketball and now during soccer she always gets pains in her calves during practices.  This always happens to her and she does stretch out beforehand.  What else can we do so that she is not always getting these calf cramps/pains?  Thank you!!

Avatar universal
by kaypeeoh, Mar 04, 2009
Hello Dr Gross,

Several years ago an MRI showed a bulge in one of the cervical discs.   Recently I developed pain in both arms.  It feels like I've been lifting weights but I haven't.   The pain seems to radiate along the radial nerve path.  Is it likely the bulge would be related to this?  


Avatar universal
by janice513233, Mar 04, 2009
Dear Doctor, I was misdiagnosed and had bilateral tarsal tunnel and now I live with severe nerve damage to both feet, then I went to another Podiatrist to see if he could fix the problem because the pain was over welming, so he did a tripple nerve release and revision tarsal tunnel on one leg then six weeks later the other leg, now he did this without doing any testing once again and now I have nerve damage in both legs from my knees to my feet because he cut me up by my knee on top of my foot and then the revision, if he did a knee x ray he would of seen I had arthritis that is why my knees hurt, he told me I most likely had nerve damage up to my knees because I was not able to walk right from the first surgery, now that all is said and done I am suffering so bad, I am taking 600mg morphine, I was on 150mcg fentanyl before this, they have to keep changing my meds, I am not diabetic, everytime I look up any info it comes up diabetic, where can I get help for this, I am suffering way to much that I feel it is taking over my heart and I am going to die, I already have such difficult trying to urine from meds, but it is the pain that is taking over my life, I am the only person in the entire town of Boston with this and there is no info for help, could you please look into this for me, I have my medical records with me as well.
Janice Power

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by meredith12, Mar 30, 2009
Dr. Gross, I have been diagnosed with excercise induced anaphylaxis/urticaria. My particular case is difficult because it has no known cause, such as food, and my severe hives are not only caused by any slight excercise such as running a vacuum cleaner but also passive warming like when I get nervous or take a shower. I get episodes of hives at least 3 times every day, and have to carry an Epi-pen everywhere I go. I went to see the medical director of intercollegiate athletics at WVU, and the only thing he could do was put me on H1 and H2 inhibitors, which worked, but only for about 5 days.  His next course of action was to put me on Prednizone for and undetermined length of 6 or more months, which I declined on the advice of my personal doctor. Is there any advice that you could give me to either help me with this or perhaps point me in the direction of a doctor that could help me? This condition has made me a captive in my own home....Thank you for your time.  -Meredith Bauer

Avatar universal
by nissan_clif, Feb 16, 2010

Thank you for this opportunity. My 8 year old son is preparing for his second year of tackle football (starting fullback and linebacker). He also plays basketball competitively (2 years). He is 4'8" 85lbs and is very aggressive on field or court and the complete opposite off of it. He is extremely coachable.  Last year he suffered a "collateral lateral ligament sprain" early in the football season and was required after xray to wear a hinged knee brace for the remainder of the season. He did not miss any games or practice but did see limited action for about 3 weeks to let it heal. His pain progressively declined each week as long as he was not required to run uphill for conditioning. Anytime he did that, his rehab suffered a setback, we felt. He says he is pain free now and has not had pain since November. He loves the game fiercely and is driven to be even  faster and hit harder than he did last year. Obviously, my wife and are are nervous and want to do the best we can to make sure that he is properly prepared for this in terms of running, tackling, and the obligatory uphill conditioning drills he will be required to do. He has expressed interest in using a running parachute, skill ladders, and running resistance bands to increase his takeoff, cutting, and breakaway speed. Seriously- at 8 years old. Those were his weaknesses last season. Would using this type of equipment for conditioning be appropriate? What would you recommend if not? Also, should he automatically wear a brace of some sort from the beginning of training this spring since he had to last year? We have hinged and unhinged braces.

Thanks again,


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