Life Is Back in Full Swing: Tips to Resume Sports Safely, Without Injury

Life Is Back in Full Swing: Tips to Resume Sports Safely, Without Injury

Trinity Rehab accepts editorial contributions from physicians and practices with whom we have relationships. The following article was contributed by The Orthopedic Institute of New Jersey.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, you may have found it challenging to follow your usual varsity sports practice regimen, weekend warrior routine or walking club schedule, since you’ve probably had fewer opportunities to play organized sports, get to the gym or meet up with friends this past year. But now that millions of Americans are getting vaccinated and resuming pre-pandemic activities, you may be eager to rejoin your team, reconnect with your running group or invite good friends for long walks again.

To keep yourself from getting hurt after such a long hiatus from athletics, pace yourself at first.

“After weeks or months of disruption to your daily exercise routine or your participation in sports leagues, you may not have the strength or endurance to run as far, lift as much weight or be as competitive as you used to be,” says Dr. Stephen Koss, an orthopedic surgeon and sports medicine specialist at the Orthopedic Institute of New Jersey. “You may feel naturally inclined to push yourself to resume your old exercise habits, because you might think that you should be able to handle the intensity but doing too much too soon could lead to injury.”

Whether you’re excited to play high school baseball again, bike 50 miles with your buddies or reconnect with your pickleball league, don’t risk sidelining yourself with an injury before you’re fully reacclimated to your routine. Even if you’re mentally in the game, your body may not be there yet physically because of your time off. Allow yourself the chance to get accustomed to movement again.

Here’s how to resume exercise with injury prevention in mind:

Start slowly. Don’t assume that you’ll be able to run 9-minute miles, bench-press 150 pounds or pitch a no-hitter right away, after so many months away from your usual routine. Start out with slower, shorter workouts or practices, at half your usual intensity. Each week, gradually add more time or intensity to your routine until you reach your desired pre-pandemic skill level.

Prep your body. It’s always helpful to warm up, cool down, stretch large muscle groups, and focus on maintaining your balance when you embark on physical activity. After a year off from going to kickboxing class, kneeling in the garden, or enduring your coach’s pre-game workout routine, warming up and cooling down can be more important than ever. Take a few minutes beforehand and afterwards for the basics.

Stop when you feel pain. Some people power through when they strain a muscle or twist a joint the wrong way but continuing to exercise when something hurts may worsen the damage. When you feel a twinge, assess how you feel, and be honest with yourself. If it hurts to put weight on the injury or if it limits your range of motion, call it quits and see a doctor.


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