Life's not fair for weekend warriors. The demands of work and family and the subtle physical decline that comes with age conspire against our inner child, who wants to go out and play.
So what's a weekend warrior to do? Since our dreams of running, cycling or playing tennis, golf or basketball aren't fading anytime soon, here are several tips on how to stay in the game, safely.
Though cycling earns high marks as a low-impact sport, poor technique and a bad bike fit are recipes for bodily harm. Start with reasonable mileage, and don't increase it by more than 10 percent each week, "Make your bike riding a little easier by shifting down. Don’t mash big gears because it may cause overuse injuries to the knees. Riding a bike properly should feel like you can spin easily. It’s an aerobic workout, and a workout that shouldn’t injure the cartilage in your knees.”
Your knees will also benefit from accurate bike fit. A saddle set too low will result in pain in the front of the knees; one propped too high can cause excessive hamstring stretching and pain in the back of the knees.
As an athletic trainer the first thing I will tell any athlete about injury prevention is that it begins with a well-structured strength and conditioning program. Athletes who are at their strongest and in peak physical condition are less likely to break down over the course of a season or get injured in general. Strength and conditioning programs should be focused towards the athlete’s specific sport. If athletic trainers or strength coaches noticed a trend of injuries, i.e. patella pain injuries during cycling, then they should be sure to provide extra emphasis in the program.
Athletes must also know their bodies and injury history. They need to keep their athletic trainers up to date on any old or nagging injuries. Someone with chronic conditions might need to wear a brace or be taped depending on the situation. This should be done in conjunction with exercises to strengthen a weakened area.
Prior to each season every athlete should get a physical from, preferably, a sports medicine physician. A good medical screen can pick up on any deficiencies, weaknesses, or undiscovered injuries. Then before competition the athlete can get any of these problems taken care of for a healthy start.
When a cyclist is injured, they need to be aware of what is happening to the specific body part injured. Inflammation will occur almost immediately. The signs of this include redness, warmth, swelling, and pain. For acute injuries pain is typically more stabbing, sharp, and will throb. For chronic injuries pain is typically dull and will increase if the injured area is overused too much or gets aggravated.
Treatment of acute injuries typically involves R.I.C.E (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation). This common practice is currently being debated amongst medical professionals. However, it never hurts to rest an injured body part if it is too painful to use. If a body part is in quite a bit of pain then ice can be used to help with the pain. If swelling lasts more than a day then elevation and compression should be used to reduce the swelling. Anti-inflammatory can be used early on to help with pain and swelling but should be monitored in younger athletes. They should also be taken with food to avoid any complications.
Once pain begins to decrease, activity can increase accordingly. Typically range of motion exercises are done first, then light strengthening followed by more demanding to strengthen the injured body part back to its normal state. Athletes with injuries should be sure to use braces or taping if needed to support the injured area when they return to play.
Regarding all injuries, chronic and acute relative rest is often the best course of treatment. It is always better to be safe than sorry regarding the return to activity.