Muscle Injuries in Cold Weather

Many athletes in Central Oregon participate in outdoor sports during the winter when temperatures reach freezing, or even dip below. Muscle injuries in cold weather are a common occurrence. It’s important to understand why they happen and how to prevent them.

The Cause of Muscle Injuries

Is cold weather causing muscle injuries? The answer is yes and no. The temperature outside does not cause a strained muscle. However, there is a risk, and it comes from muscles that are not warm enough to participate in the upcoming activity. Winter sports often have periods of downtime when the athlete is not moving. They may be taking a break, sitting through time-out or half time, or waiting for their turn to compete. Regardless of the reason, the athlete’s body cools down rapidly during inactivity in cold weather. When the body cools down, so do the muscles.

Most people agree that going from resting on the couch to doing full sprints is not a good idea, even on a warm day. Plus, when athletes are outside in the cold, they tend to try to get warm in ways other than moving. When you have been stationary prior to exercise, you don’t have enough blood in the muscles you use for your sport. You are now at risk for muscle injuries when you suddenly start to move.

Prevention of Muscle Injuries

When it is cold outside, your body stores more heat in your core and less in your arms and legs. Studies show that a proper warm-up will increase heat due to blood flow, but it can also improve neuromuscular activation – the ability of your muscles and nerves to work together in a coordinated way. Muscles preconditioned by warming up have the ability to withstand greater forces than muscles that have not gone through a warm-up. Therefore, by doing a warm-up, you decrease your risk of muscle injury because your muscles have proper blood flow and muscular activation.

soccer players dynamic warm up

What is a proper warm-up?

A proper warm-up consists of dynamic stretches, aerobic activity, and sport specific submaximal exercises.

Dynamic Stretching

Dynamic stretching is moving a muscle or muscle group through the same range of motion required for the specific sport. For example, if your sport includes running, you might want to do a slow march with high knees and swinging arms. Specific movements vary greatly from sport to sport.

Aerobic Warm-up

An aerobic activity warm-up should be short and at a light level of effort. Examples of aerobic warm-ups include, light jogging, biking, swimming, and the use of aerobic equipment like rowing machines.

Submaximal Exercises

Sport specific submaximal exercises are best towards the end of the warm-up session, and they will be similar to your sport activity. Examples of these exercises include, running through plays at slow speed, passing a soccer ball around, warming up your free throw, or playing catch with a teammate.

The full warm-up period should last at least fifteen minutes prior to the sport activity. And, in cold weather, each break in activity requires another warm-up session prior to rejoining the sport. Whether the temperatures are warm or freezing, an athlete should always do some warm-up when they have been stationary for a prolonged period. The key to avoiding muscular injuries is keeping your muscles ready to safely jump back into the game.

Written by: Tessa Cashman, ATC athletic trainer for The Center Foundation and Bend Senior High School in Bend, OR. Learn more about Tessa HERE.

The Center Foundation places dedicated athletic trainers in local high schools to provide sports medicine services to young athletes at no charge to the students or their families. Learn more about our work HERE.

REFERENCES:

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21544000
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18027995
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3377095

Preventing Ankle Injuries: Bracing vs. Taping

Ankle injuries are one of the most frequent injuries in high school sports. This negatively impacts both the athlete and their team. Ankle injuries result in significant time lost from sports activity, and they are often slow to heal, causing lingering disability. In addition, ankle injuries have a high re-injury rate, resulting in repeated injury and recovery cycles. Obviously, preventing ankle injuries in the first place is best. The practice of prophylactic, or preventative, ankle bracing and taping is one way to accomplish this.

Myths of Bracing and Taping

ankle bracing and tapingIt is a common myth that wearing ankle braces or taping to prevent ankle injuries will weaken the ankle. In addition, some believe that it can lead to injuries in other parts of the leg. However, research disagrees with this. Studies show that bracing and taping are effective ways of preventing ankle injuries. Furthermore, athletes who have had a previous ankle injury receive even greater benefit from ankle taping and bracing compared to those without previous ankle injuries.

In fact, ankle bracing and taping may provide mechanical support, as well as increased awareness of the movement of the ankle. This can result in decreased risk of ankle injury. So, which is better for preventing ankle injuries – taping or bracing?

Brace or Tape?

Bracing allows the player to apply and adjust the brace throughout the activity. This keeps the support optimal throughout the practice or game. On the other hand, once tape is applied, it is not adjustable. Another disadvantage of taping is that it quickly loosens once the athlete starts to move and sweat. Typically, tape provides the greatest support only in the first 20 minutes. In addition, there are other advantages to bracing over taping. Braces are reusable and more cost effective in the long run. In comparison, traditional taping can cost up to three times more than a brace over the course of a season.

Bracing has its disadvantages, too. They are bulky and difficult to fit under uniforms and inside of shoes. Limited brace sizes means they don’t fit everyone perfectly. And, braces have a higher upfront cost than tape. On the other hand, when tape is correctly applied, it provides customized support to the ankle, and can be more comfortable and fit better in athletic shoes.

Best Practice for Preventing Ankle Injuries

The majority of studies on taping vs. bracing conclude that bracing is slightly more effective at preventing ankle injuries. In one study published by The Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine, the author followed 300 football players over a six-year period. Comparing the two preventative therapies, they found that wearing an ankle brace was twice as effective for preventing ankle injuries as taping.

There are many types of ankle braces on the market: soft, semi-rigid, and rigid, and each has its own benefits depending on the situation. Ask your athletic trainer to learn more about ankle bracing. They can help you decide if you will benefit from bracing and help find the right brace for you.

Written by: Lindsay Hagler, MS, ATC, CSCS athletic trainer for The Center Foundation and Mountain View High School in Bend, OR. Learn more about Lindsay HERE.

The Center Foundation places dedicated athletic trainers in local high schools to provide sports medicine services to young athletes at no charge to the students or their families. Learn more about our work HERE.

References:

The Effect of Preventive Measures on the Incidence of Ankle Sprains, Verhagen, Evert A. L. M.; van Mechelen, Willem; de Vente, Wieke, Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine. 10(4):291-296, October 2000. (Accessed online November 2018).

Sports Medicine Program Highlight 2019-20

nicole porter atc for madras high school

What is the Sports Medicine Program?

Schools with certified athletic trainers are proven to have lower serious injury rates, and better concussion identification rates, than schools without. That’s why we place certified athletic trainers in local high schools through our Sports Medicine Program. Our athletic trainers provide daily on-site medical care at practices and games, triage accidents and injuries, diagnose and manage concussions, and educate athletes and coaches on injury prevention and sports safety. In short, they do a lot! And, they do all of this at no cost to students or their families. Since 2015, our high school Sports Medicine Program has grown from four schools to eight, and our athletic trainers now care for more than 5,000 student athletes annually. All of this thanks to the generous support of The Center physicians and our donors.

Why We are Here

There is nothing more precious to a parent than the safety of their child. However, parents cannot be at every practice or game to keep an eye on their young athlete. In addition, the majority of high schools in the Northwest, Central Oregon included, do not have the budget to hire and staff their own athletic trainers to care for their athletes. With more budget cutbacks each year, public schools focus their funds on maintaining high quality academic programs and ensuring equal access to education – as they should. But, kids need safe physical activity too. As a matter of fact, studies show many benefits: physical, emotional, social and intellectual, for kids participating in organized sports. And, schools know that keeping sports programs alongside academic programs is critical for children’s overall development. We agree. We want kids to play and we want them to be safe.

That’s where we step in with our high school Sports Medicine Program. Started in 2000 by concerned physicians at The Center, The Center Foundation is the only nonprofit in Central Oregon solely dedicated to ensuring that youth are safe, healthy, and protected while participating in sports. In short, we fill the gap by providing the athletic trainers that our schools cannot afford.

How Can YOU Help?

michael estes atc for prineville high schoolIn order to accomplish this, we raise over $500,000 annually to provide sports medicine services to eight high schools in Bend, La Pine, Sisters, Madras, Culver and Crook County. However, we have more work to do. Specifically, our middle school athletes need support, and we have an additional high school coming online in 2021. As our region continues to grow, so does our opportunity to keep kids active and safe. This is where YOU come in. Our kids depend on us; we depend on you to keep us here protecting them. If every parent of a high school athlete in Central Oregon gave just $10 a month for one year (that’s only two visits to Starbucks!) it would go a log way toward reaching our goals.

Please consider making a gift to The Center Foundation Sports Medicine Program. Donating is easy on our website, and we are truly grateful for every dollar given.

Written by: Shawn Taylor, Program Administrator for The Center Foundation. Learn more about Shawn HERE.

References:
The Value of the Secondary School Athletic Trainer. National Federation of State High School Associations. Published online March 10, 2015. Accessed October 26, 2018. https://www.nfhs.org/articles/the-value-of-the-secondary-school-athletic-trainer/
Youth sport: positive and negative impact on young athletes. Journal of Sports Medicine. Published online May 31, 2013. Accessed October 26, 2018.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3871410/
Sports and Child Development. Published online May 4, 2016. Accessed October 26, 2018.
https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0151729
The Value of Athletic Training Employment in Secondary School Athletics. The Sport Journal. Published Online August 31, 2017. Accessed October 26, 2018.
https://thesportjournal.org/article/the-value-of-athletic-training-employment-in-secondary-school-athletics/