Summer is the right time of year for adventure, outdoor activities, and tons of fun. Blue skies and warm weather bring family vacations, relaxation, and good times with friends. But as the temperatures rise, so does the number of orthopedic injuries. Nice weather and longer days mean more time for physical activity, outdoor sports, and a higher risk of injury. From summer sports to recreational endeavors, knowing how to prevent summer injuries can help you stay safe and off the bench this season.
Summer Activities, Orthopedic Injuries
Orthopedic injuries include anything related to the musculoskeletal system. Examples include bone fractures, joint issues, and connective tissue damage like ligament tears. The majority of orthopedic injuries happen in the summer. There are three reasons for this: weather affects human behavior, the days are longer and warmer so people are outside and active for longer periods of time, and there is more opportunity for injury. In fact, the higher the temperature, the higher the orthopedic consults.
Luckily, the best offense is still a good defense. Learning what can go wrong and how to prevent it is key to staying safe while enjoying the best summer has to offer. The most common orthopedic injuries in summer include:
- Sprains and Strains: damage to the connective tissue between bones or between a bone and muscle, usually involving a ligament, tendon, or muscle.
- Overuse Injuries: Repetitive motions that cause damage to a joint or muscle over time.
- Impingements: one part of the body’s structure interferes or puts pressure on another part.
- Bone Breaks and Fractures: A break in a bone. They can be open, closed, displaced, complete, partial, or stress fractures.
- Dislocations: The end of a bone has separated or moved from where it should be located.
These common summer orthopedic injuries happen frequently in the following “activity zones”: The Beach, The Backyard, The Backcountry, and for summer sports injuries, The Playing Field.
Summer Orthopedic Injuries at The Beach
What calls up visions of summertime fun more than a day at the beach? Whether in open water or your neighborhood swimming spot, taking a cold dip on a hot day is a great way to relax and an excellent resource for low-impact exercise. While you may be aware of beach day dangers like sunburn, heat-related illnesses, muscle cramps, and drowning, there are common orthopedic summer injuries that you can prevent as well.
Swimming, Diving, and Watersports
Even if you only swim occasionally during the summer months, injuries can occur. The two most common ways to get hurt during recreational swimming involve overuse injuries and impacts/collisions. Shoulders and hips are the two areas usually affected by overuse, by rotator cuff tears and labrum tears, respectively. Impact injuries can happen in a swimming pool or any body of water, especially when diving. Neck and head injuries occur from diving into water that is too shallow, and hitting the diving board or the pool deck can cause fractures, concussions, and broken wrists. Any suspected injury, especially involving the head or neck, should be urgently assessed by medical professionals.
Hitting the water hard after falling from wakeboards, waterskis, jet skis, and other watercraft also causes impact injuries. Shoulder pain, back, knee, and ankle injuries are common, as is whiplash, especially on choppy water.
Avoid injuries like swimmer’s shoulder and impingement by not pushing yourself too hard and resting between activities. Prevent diving injuries by checking the water’s depth and practicing before attempting any professional dives.
Running On Sand
Sand is difficult to run or walk on because it is an uneven surface of varying degrees of softness. Walking or running on sand can cause shin splints, strained or sprained ankles, stress fractures, and knee injuries. It increases muscle and ligament fatigue. Sand also creates extra strain and exertion on a body when moving or changing direction. According to “Mechanics And Energetics Of Human Locomotion On Sand,” walking on sand “requires 1.6–2.5 times more mechanical work than does walking on a hard surface at the same speed.”
Summer Orthopedic Injuries in The Backyard
Gardening and family time in the backyard can also cause orthopedic injuries many people don’t consider. Consider these common summer injuries the next time you do lawn care, backyard BBQs, and property maintenance.
Gardening can require a lot of kneeling and bending, resulting in strains and pulled muscles in the lower back, shoulders, and hips. Knee pain is typical and sometimes results in knee bursitis or osteoarthritis. When gardening, try not to reach too far overhead as that can result in rotator cuff problems or impingements. Grasping weeds and squeezing a hose can lead to carpal tunnel syndrome.
Yardwork often involves digging, stretching, pulling, and lifting heavy objects. Avoid injuries by wearing proper clothes like closed-toe shoes and slip-resistant gloves. Use ergonomic tools, stretch beforehand, and use good posture. Remember to lift with the legs, not the back.
Ladder falls are also prevalent during the summer season. The World Health Organization reports 164,000 ladder fall injuries each year in the United States alone. Injuries range from broken bones to concussions and may involve mild to severe spinal damage.
Backyard Water Slides
These backyard staples provide a lot of fun for kids as they slip and slide their way down a wet plastic strip. Adults who use them have a higher chance of getting hurt. An adult’s forward momentum and sudden stopping puts almost all their weight on their neck, resulting in head and neck trauma, broken bones, spinal cord injuries, and paralysis. To avoid injury for everyone, check the slide route for debris and rocks, and follow the manufacturer’s weight and age restrictions guidelines.
Summer Orthopedic Injuries in The Backcountry
The open road and wide-open natural areas beckon us in these warm summer months. The wilderness can be peaceful as long as preparations are made to prevent summer activity injury tragedy.
The National Institute of Health has determined that 80% of non-fatal injuries in the wilderness are soft tissue sprains and strain, particularly to the ankle, as well as knee pain and joint inflammation. The best ways to prevent injuries when hiking are to start slowly in terrain you know, wear good hiking shoes, learn basic first aid, and never hike alone. Remember, hiking in the backcountry means being a long way from medical attention and the emergency department. Be prepared to stay safe.
Whether on the open road or the city streets, biking is a fantastic low-impact exercise. However, too much biking can cause stress to various body parts like the lower back and spine. In an urban setting, getting “doored” can cause serious upper-body damage. In addition, falling from a bike can injure the head, neck, back, wrists, arms, and more commonly, the elbow. Prevent injuries no matter where you bike by adjusting the bike to your body, using proper posture, staying alert to your surroundings, and not overdoing it.
Like biking, injuries can still occur when running on hard surfaces in the city or the country. There may be no ice like in the winter, but hard surfaces still impact the body’s musculoskeletal system. Orthopedic concerns include runner’s knee, shin splints, stress fractures, sprain, strains, and Achilles tendonitis.
Summer Sports Injuries on The Playing Field
Summer is the time for outdoor competition. Whether playing recreationally or training for professional games, injury prevention is crucial. Here are some of the most popular summer sports and the common summer injuries associated with each sport.
Overuse injuries are the most common for pitchers. Collision/impact injuries, sprains, strains, rotator-cuff damage, and pitcher’s elbow are all common summer sports injuries. You can learn how to safely train for baseball season here.
Ankle sprains, Achilles tendonitis, jumper’s knee, and ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) injuries occur for both professional and amateur players. Finger joint dislocations are also common. Learning how to avoid these common basketball injuries can increase your game-day play.
Areas particularly susceptible to injury during a golf game are the elbow (golfer’s elbow), the lower back, shoulders, wrist, and hand. Learn how to prevent more golf injuries and swing easy for a pain-free summer.
Frisbee Golf/Ultimate Frisbee
This fun outdoor game has movements similar to football and soccer but without contact injuries. The majority of orthopedic injuries in frisbee golf are from overuse. A good cutting technique can alleviate knee strains, sprains, shoulder, and ankle injuries.
Tennis is a popular summer court game that can result in tennis elbow, rotator cuff damage, Achilles tendon ruptures, and jumper’s knee, as well as back stress and meniscus tears. There are non-surgical treatment options for tennis elbow.
Anyone who has played volleyball knows what it is like to jam a finger joint. Other orthopedic injuries include patellar tendonitis, ACL tears, rotator cuff tendonitis, and wrist and ankle sprains.
This sport, popular around the world, sees a high number of lower-body injuries. Overuse injuries are common, as are Achilles tendonitis, ACL tears, shin splints, patellar tendonitis, and stress fractures.
Ankle sprains and strains are common with this recreational summer activity. Most injuries occur from falling or collisions and can be as serious as a concussion and open fractures (also known as compound fractures). Protective gear should be worn at all times.
Along with ACL tears and concussions, LaCrosse can cause hand and wrist fractures from sticks, and muscle strains in the hip flexor, hamstring, and groin.
How to Prevent Summer Sports Injuries
Your choice of a summer playing field may be a green field, a trimmed pitch, or a hard concrete court, but no matter where you play, summer sports injuries can be prevented by following these simple steps:
- Use proper equipment.
- Wear the right clothes, including protective gear.
- Warm-up with gentle exercise and stretching before high-intensity activity.
- If you are more than a casual player, cross-train in the off-season.
- Watch the weather. Heat-related illness can take you out of the game.
- Stay hydrated.
- Know the rules of the game.
- Practice the proper techniques.
- Rest in between games and practices, and listen to your body.
The majority of summer injuries from recreational sports involve the lower extremities, but serious upper body damage is possible. Most summer injuries, for any recreational activity, can be avoided by using proper techniques, being aware of your surroundings, listening to your body, and staying alert. You can have a safe and fun summer season by knowing the risks and taking precautions.
If you experience pain or an injury, you should see a doctor. At Midwest Orthopedic Specialty Hospital (MOSH), you have access to the region’s most accomplished orthopedic specialists with the latest technology at their disposal. MOSH also offers convenient walk-in appointments for acute summer injuries. Contact us or call 414-817-5800 today.
More blogs from MOSH:
- Shoulder Popping When Rotating? What’s Normal (And What’s Not)
- Golf Dangers: The Risk Of Rotator Cuff Injury & More
- 6 Easy Steps To Help Your Knee Pain Now
- Orthopedic Rehabilitation