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Have Summer Fun Without Getting Hurt

Summer is the ideal time to have plenty of outdoor fun -- but you need to be smart about recreational sports to avoid injury.

There are, says Columbia University orthopedic surgeon and sports injury specialist Dr. Christopher Ahmad, right and wrong ways to go about things when biking, running, playing tennis, and at summer camp. There are, he says, easy ways to prevent serious problems.

He spelled them out on The Early Show Thursday.


There are two types of injuries to speak of -- those that are acute, and those that are training/exercise-related.

A major factor in avoiding biking injuries is to be careful about the bike size and how the seat is adjusted. If the seat is poorly adjusted, you are leaning too far forward and putting stress on your back and shoulders. Also, if the bike is too big for you, you won't be able to control it. One recommendation for serious riders is to not necessarily get the most expensive bike, but one that is fitted to them -- a custom bike made by someone skilled with bikes.

Other things that are helpful when preparing to go for a bike ride include attaching a water bottle to your bike. People tend to bike for about an hour, as opposed to running, which you may do for only 20 minutes or so, and come back and have a big drink of water. With biking, you tend to go further, so your body loses a ton of water, but you don't think of hydrating accordingly. So, it's always a good idea to have a water bottle attached to your bike.


The most common running injuries result from training errors. It sounds basic but, when the weather gets warm, you're enthusiastic and decide to go on a five-mile run, even though you haven't been doing anything all winter long -- and you end up putting too much stress on your lower body.

Basic ways to avoid that include paying attention to your sneakers. Make sure your equipment is new and ready to go. If you're running 30 miles a week, your sneakers shouldn't be more than three- or four-months-old. If you're running less than that, change your sneakers each year. The key to bear in mind is that you shouldn't base whether you need new shoes on whether the SOLES are worn out (the material is strong enough on them that they don't wear out easily) -- what you need to be concerned about is whether the shock absorbers on the bottom wear out.
A good tip is to write the date that you bought your sneakers on your new pair; that way, you'll be more likely to remember to get new ones!

The best way to get back into running is to avoid aggressive running, a common element in being a "weekend warrior." Start off by running on flat surfaces for two wks -- that's best for bones, tendons and ligaments -- then you can progress to hillier terrain.

A common mistake is to run through pain -- if you run with soreness, that's OK. But if it's getting painful, you have to stop and be evaluated. The difference between soreness and pain is that soreness goes away as soon as you stop the activity (so, if you stop and walk, it goes away). If it feels like it's more of a sharp pain occurring in a certain location, which makes you wince or limp, you need to see a doctor.

Before seeing a doctor, the standard self-help if you have some aches is to use over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medicine (such as Advil) and ice.


Tennis elbow is a concern. If someone's played for years, and this year he or she develops elbow pain, it's likely they've changed their tennis racket for a better-performance one and the weight, string tension and/or grip size aren't right for you. Similar to golf, you just need gear fit for you, not necessarily the fanciest, newest equipment.

The smaller you are, the lighter the racket you need. You think your performance goes up if you're a novice player with a bigger racquet, but your injuries can also go up.

The tennis injuries I see most are tennis elbow, rotator cuff (shoulder) injuries (generally for older people) and -- people who get out too quick and too early can rupture their Achilles tendon -- weekend warriors who aren't conditioned well and ready.


The main thing to keep in mind is that kids shouldn't have pain -- they shouldn't be doing things such as taking Advil or icing -- they shouldn't be complaining about being sore. If they are, they should stop the activity and be evaluated.

We tend to attribute these things to "growing pains," but there's really no such thing, and they shouldn't be blamed. If kids are hurting, they should stop the activity and be evaluated; otherwise, you put too much stress on developing tissue. This is something we really have to keep in mind when we send kids to camp, where they're kayaking in the morning, swimming at lunch, and playing basketball in the afternoon: By having kids do so many sports throughout the day, you really have to be worried about overuse.

There's so much media about childhood obesity -- but there is an equal kids' problem of over-usage. In some cases, doing too many sports really hurts kids.

For advice from the fedeal government on preventing summer injuries, click here.