Answers to Common Sports Medicine Questions

Premier Physician Network doctors answer frequently asked questions about sports medicine.

Who is considered an adult amateur athlete, and what sports are they often participating in?

An adult amateur athlete is someone who participates in competitive sports after college age, according to Premier Health physicians. Some of these amateur athletes often compete in tennis, softball, hockey and marathons.

Many adults will start playing the same sport competitively in their 40s as they did in their 20s, and they stay involved in sports to get back in shape and to reduce their risk of disease related to obesity and inactivity, the Premier physicians say.

For more information about adult amateur athletes talk with your doctor.

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What are the most common injuries physicians see with adult amateur athletes?

Some of the most common injuries physicians see with adult amateur athletes is caused by overuse of muscles that they have not used regularly in recent years, according Premier Physician Network’s physicians.

Oftentimes, people get excited to get back into old routines and do too much too fast instead of easing into their new exercise plan. This can cause an overworked tendon or muscle group, Premier physicians say, leading to possible tendonitis.

There are also more serious injuries that an older amateur athlete is at risk of, according to the National Institutes of HealthOff Site Icon (NIH). Coronary artery disease is the most common cause of sudden death in athletes over 35, likely because of undiagnosed chronic conditions, such as heart disease.

For more information about amateur athletes and injuries, talk with your doctor.

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What types of training can help adult amateur athletes stay healthy and injury-free (or at least less prone to injury)?

Adult amateur athletes need to regulate themselves and also practice discipline in order to avoid injuries, Premier Health physicians say. It can be easy to want to jump right into a workout routine you’re excited about, but to make sure your body is ready for a new exercise plan, it’s important to ease into it.

For example, if you want to run five miles, it can be dangerous to do so all at once after not running at all for months. Start smaller, adding some distance with each additional run as you work up to five miles, according to the Premier physicians.

Also, incorporating stretching and staying well-hydrated will help mature amateur athletes stay healthy and injury-free, according to the physicians.

For more information about staying healthy as an amateur athlete, talk with your doctor.

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What is the difference between an annual physical and a sports physical?

Both annual physical exams and pre-participation sports physicals are important, but each serves its own purpose. Many local area schools, in partnership with Premier Health, are recommending yearly well-check appointments with a primary care physician or pediatrician over traditional station-based sports physicals. During a well-check appointment, your child's doctor will discuss health concerns, check on vaccination status and update personal and family medical history. Additionally, many health insurances cover annual well-check visits free-of-charge, as an incentive for taking better preventative healthcare steps. An annual physical is an important preventive care tool to make sure a child is growing and developing on schedule, that there are no important health problems to care for and that the child is being taken care of properly by parents, according to the American Academy of PediatricsOff Site Icon (AAP).

Annual physicals typically include, according to the AAP:

  • Behavioral assessment
  • Developmental assessment
  • History
  • Measurements
  • Oral health check
  • Parental guidance for future growth and development
  • Physical exam
  • Screenings and vaccines, as needed by age
  • Sensory screenings

These exams are required frequently until a child is a toddler. At that point, the exams become annual, unless there is a health concern for more than one visit per year, according to the AAP.

The overall goal of a pre-participation sports physical exam is to determine if an athlete is in good enough physical health to participate in the upcoming sports physicals, according to the American College of Sports MedicineOff Site Icon (ACSM).

The pre-participation physical, according to the ACSM, also aims to:

  • Assess fitness level for sports
  • Care for and maintain the athlete’s health and safety
  • Educate athletes and parents about sports, exercise and potential injuries
  • Find any correctable problems that could hurt the athlete’s ability to play
  • Identify any medical or orthopedic problems that could put the athlete at risk of injury
  • Meet legal and insurance requirements

For participation in most organized school sports, these exams are required annually, according to the ACSM. For more information about the difference between annual and sports physicals, talk with your doctor.

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What are the benefits of continuity of care with a pediatrician or family doctor? Are serious health issues more likely to be discovered?

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) strongly recommends that parents strive for continuity of care, especially for pediatric patients.

Continuity of care means striving to have your child be examined by the same medical professional for as many of his or her medical needs as possible, according to the AAP. Having the child visit the same doctor repeatedly is beneficial because it will:

  • Give you a consistent style of care
  • Help you and your child build a relationship with the care provider so your child will feel comfortable sharing information and you will feel comfortable asking questions
  • Provide a common thread, so that one person will have the knowledge of your child’s medical background as they grow.

When a physician has gotten to know your child – including his or her medical history, developmental milestones, character traits and behaviors – it gives the physician more opportunities and a better basis for finding in serious health issues, according to the AAP. If your child visited a variety of doctors – for example only going to urgent care facilities for sicknesses instead of having an established doctor – a serious condition could be missed that a doctor who had built a relationship with your child might have been more likely to catch.

For more information about the importance of continuity of care for children, talk with your doctor.

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What is functional fitness?

Functional fitness is a type of workout routine that helps people – especially older adults – improve their motor skills so they can continue doing the things they enjoy and need to do every day, according to the American College of Sports MedicineOff Site Icon (ACSM).

Functional fitness – also called neuromotor exercise – according to the ACSM, focuses on improving:

  • Agility
  • Balance
  • Coordination
  • Flexibility
  • Mobility
  • Pace
  • Posture
  • Stability

The goal of this type of training is to make sure people keep the energy and strength to do daily tasks well, such as taking out the trash, walking up stairs or grocery shopping.

For more information about functional fitness, talk with your doctor.

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Should I be evaluated by a physician before starting a functional fitness exercise program?

It is important to be evaluated by a physician before you start a functional fitness exercise program, because it is good to check with your physician before starting any new fitness routine, according to Premier Physician Network’s physicians.

There are different types and levels of functional fitness programs, according to the American College of Sports MedicineOff Site Icon (ACSM). Talking with your doctor will let you know where to start and what intensity level is best for you.

To learn more about being evaluated before starting a functional fitness program, talk with your doctor.

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How does functional fitness differ from training for a single activity?

While you can improve your cardiovascular health with aerobic activities like walking and biking, these don’t focus on keeping your muscles and joints from declining, according to Consumer ReportsOff Site Icon.

A functional fitness program is broader and more well-rounded than training for a single activity would be, according to Premier Physician Network’s physicians.

With functional fitness exercise, you work on flexibility, strength, agility and balance to help that help you move through your daily routines, according to the American Council on ExerciseOff Site Icon (ACE). Functional fitness also can reduce your risk of injury and improve your overall quality of life.

Talk your physician for more information about functional fitness versus other training programs.

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What are the benefits of a functional fitness workout?

The health benefits of functional fitness workouts can be seen in your daily activities, according to the American Council on ExerciseOff Site Icon (ACE).

Continuing with everyday activities, such as walking up stairs, vacuuming or getting things of high shelves, is the goal of functional fitness. This type of exercise program focuses on muscular balance and range of motion to help with stability and mobility, according to ACE.

Functional fitness can add strength and flexibility to your muscles and joints to help prevent injuries and improve you current function, according to ACE.

Talk to your physician for more information about the benefits of functional fitness.

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What are electrolytes, and what role do they play in hydration during exercise?

Electrolytes are salts found in the blood and other bodily fluids that carry an electric charge, according to the National Institutes of HealthOff Site Icon (NIH).

Electrolytes affect multiple ways the body works, according to the NIH, including:

  • Acidity of your blood
  • How much water is in your body
  • Muscle function

Some common electrolytes include:

  • Calcium
  • Chloride
  • Magnesium
  • Phosphorus
  • Potassium
  • Sodium

For most people, drinking water is enough to stay hydrated, even when exercising, according to the American Academy of Family PhysiciansOff Site Icon (AAFP).

But, endurance athletes might choose drinks with added electrolytes that provide energy and help them participate longer, according to the AAFP.

To learn more about electrolytes, talk with your doctor.

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How can someone know how much water they need to drink during exercise?

Different people need different amounts to drink in order to stay hydrated during exercise, according to the American Academy of Family PhysiciansOff Site Icon (AAFP).

Generally, the AAFP recommends drinking six to eight, 8-ounce glasses of water each day. Healthy people generally can stay hydrated by drinking water or other drinks when they feel thirsty.

Some people, however, need to drink more to stay hydrated. People with diabetes, heart disease, and other health conditions need more water, according to the American Heart AssociationOff Site Icon (AHA).

One way to know if whether you’re drinking enough is to pay attention to the color of your urine, according to the AHA. Having pale or clear urine means you’re well hydrated. Having dark, strong-smelling urine means you need to drink more.

To know exactly how much you need to drink while exercising, you can track your weight both before and after working out. You need to drink 1 pint of water for every pound lost during exercise, according to the AAFP.

For more information about how much water to drink during exercise, talk with your doctor.

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What are signs of dehydration?

If you haven’t had enough to drink during the day, you can become dehydrated, according to the American Academy of Family PhysiciansOff Site Icon (AAFP).

Some signs of dehydration, according to the AAFP, include:

  • Confusion
  • Darker than usual urine
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Dry mouth
  • Extreme thirst
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Little or no urine
  • No tears
  • Sleepiness

Talk to your doctor for more information about signs of dehydration.

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What sports pose a higher risk for concussions?

A variety of sports and recreational activities are included among those that pose the highest risk for concussion.

The top 10 sports that cause concussions among children 14 and younger, according to the American Association of Neurological Surgeons (AANS), are:

  • Baseball/softball
  • Basketball
  • Cycling
  • Football
  • Powered recreational vehicles
  • Skateboards/scooters
  • Soccer
  • Trampolines
  • Water sports
  • Winter sports

When including people older than 14, trampoline injuries are knocked off the list of top 10 sports that cause concussions and replaced by fitness/exercise/health club injuries, according to the AANS.

For more information about sports that most frequently cause concussions, talk with your doctor.

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What role can parents play in keeping their child safe before or after having a concussion?

Parents can help their children prevent concussions.

The Centers for Disease Control and PreventionOff Site Icon (CDC) recommends taking the following steps to help avoid a first concussion and help prevent more concussions:

Sports Safety

  • Do not play or practice a sport again until activity has been approved by your doctor
  • Practice good sportsmanship
  • Follow the rules for the sport
  • Use the right equipment for the sports you are playing
  • Wear a properly fitted helmet, especially for sports such as baseball, skiing, football, hockey and lacrosse

Household and Play Safety

  • Wear a properly fitted helmet during other activities, including biking, snowmobiling, riding a scooter, rollerblading, skateboarding, riding a horse and sledding
  • Find an outdoor place to play that is made of shock-absorbing material, such as hardwood mulch or sand, rather than pavement
  • Make living areas safe by keeping falling hazards to a minimum

Car Safety

  • Make sure children ride in the correct kind of car seat for their age and weight
  • Wear a seat belt every time in the car

Talk with your doctor for more information about preventing concussions.

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How is the meniscus torn or injured?

Dr. Griesser discusses how the meniscus gets torn or injured. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

Most often, meniscus tears or injuries happen while you’re playing a sport, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic SurgeonsOff Site Icon(AAOS).

The tears can happen while your squatting or twisting, or even during direct contact, such as being tackled.

As we get older, we can also have what are called degenerative meniscus tears. The AAOS says these are from cartilage that has weakened over the years, so even just an awkward twist when standing from a chair can cause an injury.

For more information about meniscus tears and injuries, talk with your doctor.

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How do young athletes get meniscus tears?

Dr. Griesser discusses how the meniscus gets torn or injured. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

In most young athletes who suffer a meniscus tear, it is often caused by trauma to the knee during a sport. The trauma usually involves both compression and twisting, according to the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports MedicineOff Site Icon (AOSSM). 

Athletes in some sports are more likely than others to get a meniscus tear because they are more likely to twist their knee or have a heavy landing. Soccer, football, and basketball are sports in which athletes often have meniscus tears, according to  Premier Physician Network (PPN) physicians.  

For more information about how young athletes get meniscus tears, talk with your doctor.

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How can athletes reduce their risk for a meniscus tear?

Dr. Griesser discusses how athletes can reduce their risk for a meniscus tear. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

Though some athletes are more likely than others to face a meniscus tear at some time during their sports career, there are still some steps you can take to help reduce the risk.

Following your sport’s safety standards for protective padding, keeping fit outside of your sport, and eating a healthy diet, are all parts of plan that young athletes can put into motion to help prevent a serious injury, according to Premier Physician Network (PPN) physicians.

For more information about preventing a meniscus tear, talk with your doctor.

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How is a meniscus tear treated?

Dr. Griesser discusses how a meniscus tear is treated. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

How your meniscus tear is treated will depend on how bad the tear is.

Your doctor will examine your knee and likely will order an X-ray and an MRI to have pictures of your knee bones and tissues, according to the National Institutes of HealthOff Site Icon(NIH).

Your meniscus might be able to heal at home with self-care. You could need crutches to use while the pain and swelling lessen. A brace will also help to support your knee and make it more stable, the NIH says.

In addition to over-the-counter pain medication, such as ibuprofen and naproxen, your doctor will likely recommend you use the RICE method to manage pain and swelling.

RICE stands for:

  • Rest – Avoid putting weight on your leg
  • Ice – For 20 minutes at a time, three to four times a day, put an ice pack on your knee
  • Compress – Wrap the area with an elastic bandage or compression wrap
  • Elevate – Raise your leg above heart level

Physical therapy might also be recommended to help you recover back to your normal range of motion and activities.

In other cases, you could need surgery to treat a torn meniscus. Knee arthroscopy is one type of surgery that can repair or trim the meniscus, and is usually used in younger patients with less severe tears, according to the NIH.

A meniscus transplant is another surgical option. The NIH says it is used if your meniscus is torn so extremely that all or most of the cartilage is torn or removed.

For more information about treating meniscus tears, talk with your doctor.

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What is delayed onset muscle soreness, and when does it happen?

Dr. Scott Albright discusses delayed onset muscle soreness and when it happens. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

Delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) is pain that we get after doing an activity the muscles aren’t used to doing, such as starting a new workout routine, according to the American College of Sports MedicineOff Site Icon (ACSM).

The soreness is thought to be caused by microscopic damage caused to muscle fibers during exercise. 

Anyone can be affected by DOMS. Any activity, especially repetitive ones, can cause DOMS, but some that are known to commonly cause the soreness include:

  • Jogging
  • Jumping
  • Running down hills
  • Step aerobics
  • Strength training

The soreness doesn’t start until 24 to 48 hours after the exercise and typically lasts between three and five days, according to Premier Physician Network (PPN) physicians.

Talk to your doctor for more information about delayed onset muscle soreness.

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What can be done to reduce the risk of delayed onset muscle soreness?

Dr. Scott Albright discusses how to reduce the risk of delayed onset muscle soreness. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

Delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) is common, so there are only a few things you can do to reduce your risk of feeling the pain.

One way to try to reduce the risk of DOMS is to warm up before an activity and then ease your way into it, according to the American College of Sports MedicineOff Site Icon (ACSM).

Giving your muscles time to adjust to the stress of a new exercise can help make the DOMS less severe. But, it likely won’t help you avoid the pain altogether.

The only other way to avoid DOMS is to avoid exercise completely, according to Premier Physician Network (PPN) physicians. However, the negative effects doing no physical activity would have on your life are far worse than the short-term pain from DOMS, they said.

Talk to your doctor for more information about ways to reduce the risk of delayed onset muscle soreness.

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What are the signs that muscle soreness shouldn’t be ignored?

Dr. Scott Albright discusses signs that muscle soreness shouldn’t be ignored. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

In most cases, delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) isn’t serious and should go away in a few days. Most of the time you can even keep exercising through the pain, though it might be best to take it a little easier until the pain lessens, according to the American College of Sports MedicineOff Site Icon (ACSM). 

However, there is some muscle soreness you should take more seriously, according to Premier Physician Network (PPN) physicians. 

Some signs of serious muscle soreness - that you should talk to your doctor about - include:

  • Dark brown urine
  • Ongoing soreness lasting beyond five days
  • Painful joints
  • Swelling muscles or extremities
  • Talk to your doctor for more information about signs muscle soreness shouldn’t be ignored.

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Why are opioids prescribed to young athletes?

Young athletes can sometimes be prescribed opioids for pain relief, especially when they play high contact sports, such as football or ice hockey.

However, it’s become more and more uncommon to prescribe opioids to young athletes or any adolescents, Premier Physician Network (PPN) physicians say.

The most common reasons to prescribe opioids at all would be as pain relief for a severe fracture or after an operation. Even then, the longest prescription allowed is for seven days with no refills.

Talk to your doctor for more information about why opioids might be prescribed to young athletes.

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How can young athletes use opioids safely?

The only way for young athletes – or anyone – to use opioids safely is to strictly follow the medication use schedule prescribed by their doctor, Premier Physician Network (PPN) physicians say.

As parents, we need to be watchful and vigilant of making sure any opioid is used only as a physician prescribed. Any remaining medication should be disposed of through a local medication drop-off site, such as a local police department or health department.

Talk to your doctor for more information about how opioids can be used safely by young athle

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What can parents do to help their children use opioids safely?

Parents can help make sure children use opioids safely by staying in control of the medication at all times, Premier Physician Network (PPN) physicians say.

Keep pills in a locked cabinet and give your child only one dose at a time.

Follow the doctor’s orders exactly for when and how much your child should take.

If your doctor recommended your child stop taking the medicine before it’s gone, dispose of any remaining pills through a local medication drop-off site, such as a local police department or health department.

For more information about how parents can help their children safely use opioids, talk with your doctor.

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What is kinesiology tape?

Kinesiology tape is a kind of elastic therapeutic tape strip made to help athletes heal and maintain good blood flow, according to the American Council on ExerciseOff Site Icon (ACE).

The tape supports and stabilizes muscles and joints while still letting athletes be flexible and move as they need.

It’s fairly common to see athletes wearing bright-colored kinesiology tape during soccer games, volleyball tournaments and tennis matches.

Talk to your doctor for more information about kinesiology tape.

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When can kinesiology tape be used? 

Kinesiology tape is often used for athletes to help improve blood flow to their muscles, Premier Physician Network (PPN) physicians say.

It can also be used to provide support, stability and compression to muscles and joints. But it still lets athletes move while they compete, according to the American Council on ExerciseOff Site Icon (ACE).

Talk to your doctor for more information about when kinesiology tape should be used.

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What are the benefits of kinesiology tape?

Using kinesiology tape can help speed up the healing process, Premier Physician Network (PPN) physicians say.

It can help with the inflammatory process and reduce swelling. 

Kinesiology tape – when used correctly – can also help ease joint and muscle pain.

The tape can be helpful for anyone, not just athletes. Many times using kinesiology tape can help reduce the number of office visits you need because you feel better faster.

For more information about kinesiology tape, talk with your doctor.

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Why is it important to use kinesiology tape properly?

Though kinesiology tape probably won’t hurt you if you use it wrong, it won’t help you either, Premier Physician Network (PPN) physicians say.

If you have an injury you’re trying to care for by using kinesiology tape, it’s important to talk to your health care provider first.

Your provider can show you how and where to use the tape to get the greatest benefit from it.

Your provider can also check your injury to make sure it isn’t something more serious than what kinesiology tape should be used for.

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Thanks to Premier Physician Network doctors for answering these common questions about sports medicine:

Additional Resources

This website provides general medical information that should be used for informative and educational purposes only. Information found here should not be used as a substitute for the personal, professional medical advice of your physician. Do not begin any course of treatment without consulting a physician.

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