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Thursday, 28 November 2013

Performance Athletes and Injuries

All athletes at some time or another will need to compete or perform in front of a crowd.  For some athletes however, they are always in the spot light.  Performance athletes such as dancers, gymnasts, and figure skaters have the added pressure of always being critiqued on how they perform.

For many performance athletes both male and female the pressure to look good as well as perform at their best pushes them to extremes that other athletes don't try to achieve.  As with many athletes the fear of losing a position is great with all performance athletes.  This fear be it real or imagined can drive athletes to try and do anything to keep their position.

When dancers, gymnasts, figure skaters and cheerleaders become injured the notion of rest and recovery is a foreign concept to them.  They will hide injuries from their coaches and parents, not wanting them to know as their coach or parent may take them out of sport for the duration of their injury.  Performance athletes are prone to over use of pain medications due to this, which now causes more health issues on top of the initial injury.  However, some coaches and instructors expect their athletes to push through all injuries no matter how detrimental it will be to them both short and long term.  In some clubs and studios it is expected that athletes will train and compete through pain and that personal sacrifice and risk taking are expected and shows how dedicated you are to your sport, teacher and studio.  These athletes also tend to feel large amounts of guilt if they do become injured as they feel they are letting their coach, parent, team or troupe down.

A change of culture needs to occur in these sports.  Somehow all of us from coaches, parents, athletes, officials and health care providers need to encourage performance athletes to properly manage their injuries.  They need to know that their place in their team or troupe is secure and that their long term health is important.  Educating athletes and coaches to see beyond the next performance is part of this change.  No matter the sport proper injury prevention and management coming from all aspects of the athletes life is important.  The more education that coaches, athletes and parents have the safer the athletes will be in the present and future.

Friday, 22 November 2013

Shoveling to Avoid Injury

For those of us living in central and northern Alberta over the last few weeks, we have had to break out the snow shovels and ice chippers.  Making sure your walks and driveways are shoveled is not only a safety factor for you but those who also use those sidewalks and steps.  When taking on the task of shoveling there are a few key steps you can take to prevent injuring yourself as well as how to be safe for everyone.

As with most everything else in life having the right tools for the job is extremely important.  When buying a shovel proper height and weight for your body will help you avoid injury and do the job more efficiently.  You should not need to hunch over when standing with your shovel.  Heavier is not always better, the shovel needs to be well built but not too heavy, lifting it in the store with no snow on it is great but you need to take in account the increased load that the snow will add.

Preparing to go outside to shovel is half of the battle.  Not only must you get yourself psyched up to do it, because lets be honest who likes to shovel snow.  Wearing the proper attire will not only make the job go quicker but also a lot smoother.  Wear layers.  Snow shoveling is a very physical activity, start layering as you would if you were to go outside and exercise.  Wear fabrics that wick away moisture and that keep a layer of warm dry air near your body to keep you warm.  Your outer layer should be wind and water resistant.  There are a wide variety of cold weather gear out there.  Find the one that suits your needs the best.  Cover your head, 50% of our bodies heat can be lost through the head.  In extreme cold weather cover your nose and mouth to help decrease the amount of cold air that is entering your lungs.  Warm hands and feet will also make your task more comfortable, use gloves that allow you to hold the shovel and will keep your hands not only warm but dry as well.  Proper footwear is key.  Wear warm socks and boots that provide warmth, water resistance and good traction.  If your winter boots or work boots do not have good grips add on some ice cleats or traction aids.

Once you are outside and ready to begin, push the snow as much as possible.  The less you lift and throw the better.  When you do need to lift make sure you use your knees and not your back.  Do not throw over your head or shoulder height as this will put unnecessary strain on your upper back and shoulders.  Take breaks as needed and keep hydrated.  If you are not physically fit take your time, no matter your fitness level take breaks as needed.  Snow shoveling is a physical activity that combines cardiovascular exercise, weight lifting, balance and coordination, and we all must take breaks and be aware of our level of fatigue.  As we tire our body will become more prone to injuries and have a harder time keeping warm.

Snow shoveling can be a great way to get some extra exercise in during the cold months of the year, however it is only beneficial if you remain injury free.  By shoveling our walks, driveways and steps not only are you making your  home safe for yourself and your family but your guests and those who use the sidewalks daily.

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Pampering your Feet

Getting pedicures may seem like a frivolous thing to do but taking care of your feet can help prevent both foot disease and musculoskeletal issues.  Without taking in account exercising people can average 3000-5000 steps per day.  Any force that you generate through movement is now being put through your wonderful feet.  The foot is comprised of 26 bones which is 1/4 of all the bones in the body and over 100 muscles, tendons and ligaments.  Making up 33 joints which provide support, balance and mobility for the whole body.

What types do injuries and conditions are you trying to prevent through proper foot care?  There are many but we are going to focus in a few that effect all types of athletes.

Plantar Fasciitis is inflammation of the plantar fascia of the foot.  The plantar fascia is a a strong fibrous band of tissue that forms the arch of the foot.  Typically pain first shows up in the morning after the fascia has had a chance to tighten through the night.  As the Achilles tendon attaches in the same place tight calf muscles can play a role in the onset of plantar fasciitis.  In addition to calf stretching, plantar massage can help decrease the tension in the bottom of the foot.  The use of tennis balls, lacrosse balls or a bottle of frozen water are great tools for self massage.

A bunion is an enlargement of bone or tissue on the big toe, if this occurs on the little toe it is called a bunionette.  Causes of bunions are the shape of your foot, excessive pronation (you walk on the insides of your feet), fallen arches and improper fitting footwear.  Bunions typically are non symptomatic and treatment can vary depending on how severe they are.  The best way to deal with them is prevention.  Proper footwear with lots of room in the feet and that provide proper arch support.

Proper hygiene will help in prevention of the following three foot conditions.
Ingrown toe nails are when the skin around the nail grows over the nail or when the nail itself grows into the skin.  It has been shown in some parts of the population have a wide nail bed and will have chronic problems with ingrown toenails without surgery.  Ingrown toenails can easily become infected.  To avoid this problem correct nail clipping needs to occur.  Cut the nail straight across and avoid leaving sharp corners.  In the event you do end up with an ingrown toenail, soak your feet in salt water, dry them completely with a clean towel, use a mild antiseptic on the area and cover with a bandaid.

Athlete's foot is a fungal infection that causes red, flaking skin that is typically accompanied by itching.  In most cases athlete's foot is contracted in locker rooms.  It can spread beyond the feet if the athlete touches other areas after touching the infected area.  Keeping your feet clean and dry is the most basic prevention technique as well as not walking around in bare feet in any public area.

Plantar warts are caused by the human pappillomavirus (HPV) entering the body through small cuts on the feet. Plantar warts typically are found in calluses on the feet and have a small black centre.  The prevention of plantar warts is primarily based on proper cleaning and care of your feet.

So what is proper foot care?

  • Wearing proper fitting shoes that breath well with a wide toe box. 
  • Washing your feet daily and keeping them dry.
  • If you have feet that tend to sweat the use of powder to keep the feet dry. 
  • Never go bare foot in public places.
  • Use a pumice stone to remove calloused areas on your feet.  If you have active warts or infection do not use the same stone on healthy skin.
  • Self massage of your feet to relieve tired muscles and reduce tightness in the arches.  
  • Trimming toe nails straight across and avoid leaving sharp corners. 
Be nice to your feet and they will be nice to you.