Popular recreational sports result in more than 1 million adult injuries each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Below are some things to consider so you can play it safe when you’re active outdoors this spring.
If you’re exercising in very hot weather, take preventive steps to avoid heat stroke. According to the CDC, these include:
- Cut down on exercise. If you do exercise, rest often in the shade, and drink two to four glasses of cool, nonalcoholic fluids each hour. A sports beverage can replace the salt and minerals you lose in sweat. However, if you’re on a low-salt diet, talk with your doctor before drinking a sports beverage.
- Don’t drink liquids that contain alcohol or large amounts of sugar — these actually cause you to lose more body fluid. Also, avoid very cold drinks, because they can cause stomach cramps.
- Drink more fluids (nonalcoholic), regardless of your activity level. Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink. If your doctor generally limits the amount of fluid you drink or has you on water pills, ask how much you should drink while the weather is hot.
- Limit your outdoor activity to morning and evening hours.
- Wear lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing.
According to the National Eye Institute (NEI), 90 percent of sports-related eye injuries can be avoided with the use of protective eyewear, which includes safety glasses and goggles, safety shields and eye guards designed for a particular sport. Ordinary prescription glasses, contact lenses and sunglasses do not protect against eye injuries, the NEI notes.
Baseball, basketball and softball are among the sports the NEI lists as posing a high risk for eye injuries. Sports in the “moderate risk” category include football, golf, badminton, soccer, tennis and fishing.
For baseball and softball, the NEI recommends a polycarbonate face guard or other certified safe protection attached to the helmet for batting and base running, and sports goggles with polycarbonate lenses for fielding. For sports such as badminton, soccer, basketball and tennis, the NEI recommends sports goggles with polycarbonate lenses.
Your eyes also need protection from the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays. Wear sunglasses that block 99 or 100 percent of all UV rays (check the label). Choose sunglasses that are close-fitting or that wrap around, which will prevent rays from filtering in from above and the sides.
To protect your skin from the sun, the National Institutes of Health suggests you take these steps:
- Avoid the sun when it's at its strongest. This is normally between the hours of 10 am and 4 pm. Stay indoors or in the shade during those hours. Some UV rays will still reach you in the shade, because they are reflected off of concrete, sand and water. So even in the shade you should wear sunscreen or sunblock.
- Cover up. Wear long pants, a shirt with long sleeves and a hat with a wide brim that keeps the sun off your face and neck. If that's impractical, a T-shirt, long shorts and a baseball cap are reasonable alternatives. Tightly woven fabrics will offer more protection than loosely woven fabrics. Make sure the exposed skin is well protected with sunscreen, particularly the tops of your ears if you wear a cap instead of a hat with a brim. If your clothes get wet, they lose some of their protective ability.
- Wear sunscreen or sunblock. Sunscreen chemically absorbs rays, while sunblock deflects them. Use a product with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15. A "broad spectrum" sunscreen protects against both UVB rays — the burning rays that are the primary cause of sunburn and skin cancer — and UVA rays, which penetrate deeper into the skin and also contribute to burning and skin cancer. The SPF indicates protection from UVB rays only; there currently is no standard rating to measure UVA protection. Sunscreen wears off, especially if you sweat or go into the water. You will need to reapply it often, even the waterproof kind. Follow the directions on the container.
In addition to safety goggles, you may want to consider other protective gear for some sports, such as athletic supporters for males. Here are other examples:
- Baseball and softball – Batting helmet, shin guards, elbow guards, mouth guard
- Basketball – Elbow and knee pads, mouth guard
- Bicycling – Helmet
- Football – Helmet; mouth guard; shoulder pads; chest/rib pads; pads for forearms, elbows and thighs; shin guards
- Soccer – Shin guards
- Volleyball – Knee pads
Your shoes should be appropriate to the activity and should fit properly. For example, for soccer, wear shoes with molded cleats or ribbed soles. Tennis calls for shoes with enough support to help prevent ankle injuries, while volleyballers will want shoes that are lightweight and provide strong ankle and arch support and good shock absorption.
If you’re a runner, choose shoes that provide stability and cushioning to the foot and absorb shock well. And remember that most of a shoe’s ability to absorb shock is lost after 250 to 500 miles of use, so if you’re a frequent runner, consider replacing your shoes every 9 to 12 months.
The size of your foot varies over the course of the day, so buy your shoes at the end of the day — this is when the foot is at its largest.
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