We all may be aware of the health benefits of regular exercise. However, making the time and effort to engage in this additional activity may not be easy. In addition, whether you are a fanatic for fitness or slowly building up to a goal– accidents and injuries can happen which can stop us in our tracks. The sooner you recognize an injury, the sooner you can stop, rest and recover.
Now that gyms have been identified as safe zones, many of us will be rushing to get back into Carnival shape. This article highlights some of the most common accidents and injuries than can occur during exercise. It gives advice on injury prevention, early recognition and first aid to avoid the condition worsening.
If you have any pre-existing medical conditions, always seek medical advice before starting exercise or increasing to a higher level. Always ensure that the intended exercise is not contraindicated by your condition in any way.
1) Always warm up before exercise:
Many injuries occur when we take short cuts and fail to warm up. Never begin any vigorous exercise without warming up first and properly stretching. Otherwise, it is very common to end up with injuries. If you haven’t exercised since the lockdown started be realistic, slowly and steadily build up to your extent. If you do feel unwell at any point during your exercise, slow down or stop and give yourself time to recover.
Globally, orthopaedic specialists agree that strains and sprains are the most common reported exercise related injury, especially in the back and joints. Extensive periods of sitting at work and home as well as poor posture have weakened our backs. Therefore, to avoid putting additional strain on these areas, it is important to thoroughly warm up before exercise.
Many of us like to begin or even resume an exercise program with new shoes. Vigorous exercise or lengthy runs in new trainers can quickly become very uncomfortable and result in blisters. Instead, break them in at home – your feet must be familiar and comfortable with the shoes. Socks also must fit well and be comfortable. If you are running on wet roads, ensure your shoes have enough grip so as to avoid slipping or falls.
3) Nipple bleeding and chafing:
Some persons may be prone to chafing when exercising. To avoid this, apply petroleum jelly or anti chafing talc to the relevant area. During exercise, t-shirts and exercise tops can blister the nipples causing them to bleed. It may be helpful to cover nipples with plasters if they do bleed; wash and carefully dry them and cover with a breathable plaster.
If you do get a blister and the skin is still intact, do not pop it. Instead, cover the blister with a blister plaster and remove any wrinkles from socks that may rub on it. If the blister is already broken likely to break; cover it with a clean, dry, non-adhesive dressing. As mentioned previously, to avoid blisters ensure shoes are broken in and comfortable.
5) Remain hydrated:
In order to remain hydrated, you need to drink enough fluids. However, drinking too fast or too much can cause a condition known as hyponatraemia which simply means the body’s salt level is dangerously low. Symptoms of hyponatraemia are similar to dehydration but this salt imbalance can cause seizure or coma. In fact, drinking too much water too fast is one of the most dangerous things an athlete can do, especially right before strenuous physical activity. Small amounts of fluid on a continuous basis is recommended instead.
A cramp is a common problem during exercise caused by the build up of lactic acid in the muscles. This can however be avoided by maintaining a salt/fluid balance and staying properly hydrated. Non caffeinated sports drinks can help if you are prone to cramps and a proper warm up is also important if this regularly occurs.
7) If you have asthma:
It is important to always have your inhaler with you. Especially if you haven’t experienced an asthma attack in a very long time as exercise can induce an attack. If you are training as part of a group, always let them know if you have any medical conditions and make sure they know how to help you in case of an emergency.
8) Cool down:
The same way you take the time to warm up and stretch before your exercise, it is equally important to stretch as you cool down. Stretching after exercise can help reduce lactic acid build up in muscles and relax tense muscles, minimizing the possibility of injuries.
9) Heat exhaustion:
The weather in Trinidad and Tobago can be temperamental. If exercising outdoors, ensure you have appropriate clothing for whatever exercise you intend to do. If you begin to feel sick, experience headache or cramps and feel dizzy; you may be experiencing heat exhaustion. Heat exhaustion is a serious condition, therefore early recognition and interventions is important. Lie down in a shady spot with your legs raised, take frequent sips of your water or sports drink and if possible; call someone to be with you. It is important to remember to listen to our body and rest when necessary.
10) Sprained ankle:
Do not try to put weight on an injured ankle. Listen to your body and get help. Use the acronym PRICE:
Protect the injury (stop using the injured limb)
Rest the injury
Ice (apply a wrapped ice pack)
Compress (apply a supportive bandage)
Elevate to reduce swelling.
If symptoms don’t improve or get worse, seek medical advice.
11) Knee joint injuries:
If you injure your knee; gently lie down and support your knee in a position of most comfort. Do not try to walk on your injured knee or attempt to straighten the knee. Try not to eat or drink anything in case you require an anaesthetic and seek medical attention immediately.
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Fazad Mohammed, MPH, is the founder and lead instructor at Applied Learning First Aid (ALFA).
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The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.