Summer Safeguards Against Knee Injury
Ensure the warmer months ahead are filled with fun in the sun, free from injury.
As the calendar ushers in the warmest days of the year, they bring with them fun in the sun and longer days with plenty of outdoor activity options. While these more relaxed days of the year – with no school and more family vacations – can be just what the doctor ordered in terms of rest and relaxation, they aren’t without orthopedic injury risks. If you’ve taken the time all year long to safeguard your knees against injury, summer is no time to let your guard down. Keeping a few solid tips in mind, this summer season will be one for the happy memory books.
Ease into It – The warmer weather and longer summer days can tempt us all toward a “do more” attitude. But take caution. Whether it’s gardening, home maintenance, or outdoor activities that you’ve waited all year to get back to, take it slowly. Gradually easing your body into activities you haven’t done regularly is the best way to safeguard against knee and other orthopedic injuries.
Stretch it Out – Sometimes, the warmer days of summer can also falsely lead us to believe that we don’t need to stretch before or after strenuous exercise or activity. We often hear that people think of stretching as “warming up” their muscles. I suppose the theory during the summertime is that the sunshine will do the warming. Wrong! Preparing the body for exercise or activity is more about muscle “activation.” Going hard on tight muscles is a recipe for orthopedic injury, including damage to the knees. So even when it’s warm out, take the time to stretch before every activity.
Give Hydration Its Due – It may not seem like this tip has to do directly with knee injury avoidance, but it does. Dehydration can result in joint pain (including in the knees) because proper hydration has a lubricating effect on every joint in the body. After all, up to 80% of joint cartilage is comprised of water. Dehydration and heat exhaustion are serious, and the risk of experiencing them increases dramatically over the summer months. In its most severe form, dehydration can also lead to fainting, which drastically increases the risk of orthopedic injury from a fall. No matter where you are or what you are doing, take frequent hydration breaks before feeling thirsty and maintain that focus throughout the day or activity.
Focus on Your Feet – How can a focus on your feet help safeguard against knee injury? Two words: flip-flops. Or: bare feet. I can’t tell you how many traumatic knee injuries I hear about during the summertime sustained because the person injured was wearing improper footwear for the activity they were doing. I know it’s enticing to free your feet in the warm weather, but if you’re engaging in an activity that requires running, jumping, or pivoting movements, take the time to lace up proper-fitting tennis shoes. Don’t be the guy or gal playing basketball at the park wearing sandals. Your knees will thank you for the effort, and so will your jump shot.
Do It Together – Taking a buddy along with you on a summer hike or bike ride is an excellent way to ensure you keep each other safe. I don’t want to sound overdramatic, but stories abound of solo hikers or bikers who trip over a rock and fall, injury a knee or ankle, and can’t walk to get help. Those people must rely on someone to find them, and it doesn’t always work out, unfortunately. Bringing a friend with you, especially if you plan to venture somewhere remote, can be a life-saving precaution.
After the year-plus we’ve had due to COVID-19 restrictions, I know so many people are just itching to get out and live life to the fullest again. I am among them. But many bodies haven’t been able to access adventure for over a year. The last thing anyone needs after a COVID year is a summer laid up and recovering from an otherwise preventable knee injury.
So, ease in, take the necessary safety steps, and enjoy!