Sports injuries are so common that they often seem inevitable, says Darrin Eakins, a former orthopedic surgeon. Sooner or later, most athletes will sustain an injury. Whether from a soccer ball to the knee or a misstep on the treadmill, there is no such thing as complete immunity against sports injuries.
Depending on the severity of the injury and how it is treated, it may take anywhere from weeks to months to heal properly. Luckily, some simple exercises can help treat sports injuries–or prevent them in the first place!
The Reverse Lunge with Back Extension
This exercise strengthens the glute muscles to create more stability for the pelvis and lumbar spine during physical activity. The exercise is also great for improving hip, ankle, and foot flexibility, says Dr. Darrin Eakins.
To do the reverse lunge with back extension, start with feet hip-width apart in a standing position. Step back with one foot until there’s a feeling of tension in the front of the thigh. The other leg should stay straight or flexed (depending on how much support it needs).
Slowly bend both knees until there’s tension in the front of the rear thigh. As the lunge deepens, breathe in deeply through the nose and exhale through the mouth. Hold this position for three seconds, then slowly come up to a standing position while breathing deeply. Repeat 10 times on each side three times a day.
The Standing Hip Flexor Stretch
The standing hip flexor stretch is a simple way to stretch the muscles in the front of the thighs. It will help maintain good hip flexibility, which can reduce future injuries, explains Dr. Darrin Eakins. Here’s how it’s done:
Stand with feet about hip-width apart and raise one leg behind the body. Turn the foot out so that the toes point away from the body and lean into the leg until a comfortable stretch is felt in the thigh muscle.
Hold this for five seconds before switching legs and repeating the exercise on the other side.
Repeat three times on each side or until the muscles feel loose.
The Seated Hamstring Stretch
This exercise is perfect for strengthening the hamstrings and glutes, says Dr. Darrin Eakins. Begin by sitting on the ground with legs stretched out in front of the torso and the arms at rest.
Extend one leg backward and grab behind the knee or ankle with the hand (whichever feels natural). Keep the other leg bent and pull the extended leg toward the chest.
Hold this position for 15-30 seconds before switching to the other side. Repeat if tightness continues.
Don’t Forget to Give the Body Time to Heal
Whatever sport they prefer–be it running, cycling, or badminton–people are bound to get some kind of injury. When stress is repeatedly put on the body, it’s almost inevitable, says Dr. Darrin Eakins.
And while it can be hard to forego a favorite sport because of pain, doing so can actually speed up recovery time. The body must be allowed to heal, or one risks damaging it further. Ice, rest, and anti-inflammatories are essential tools for athletes, and recreational sportsmen alike, says the doctor.
Luckily, there are a variety of exercises that can be completed at home to help manage pain in-between visits to the doctor.