Whether you signed up for a new recreation league that your friends were all part of, or you got guilted into joining the company softball team, starting a new sport as an adult can be at once exciting and intimidating.
You probably aren’t in peak physical condition, but you’re about to get the chance to engage with your peers and compete in something that’s challenging, good for you, and hopefully, fun.
That said, there are some risks to starting a new sport in your adulthood. So if you want to protect yourself, there are some precautions you should take.
Safety Tips When Starting A New Sport
Make sure you follow these tips before starting a new sport and throughout your practices and games:
1. Get A Physical Exam
It’s a good idea to get a physical on a regular basis, and it’s an even better idea to have one before you start any new fitness or physical activity-related regimen.
Talk to your doctor about what level of activity you plan to engage in, and what you’ve done in the past.
They’ll be able to help you pinpoint any risk factors that could interfere with your progressions, such as underlying heart conditions, or limited mobility, so you can guard against them.
2. Know What Shape You’re In
Don’t delude yourself about what shape you’re in. If you haven’t exercised regularly in several months to a year or longer, you can’t go into a new activity at full force.
It takes time to condition your muscles, tendons, and ligaments to a new activity. So if you aren’t in perfect shape already, take things slow.
3. Invest In Head And Neck Protection
Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) are responsible for 275,000 hospitalizations and 52,000 deaths per year. They’re nothing to play around with.
No matter what sport you’re participating in, invest in the protection of your head and neck. In many cases, that means wearing a helmet.
Go ahead and watch the movie Concussion and you’ll understand what I’m talking about. 🙂
4. Get A Mouthguard
Dental injuries are common in more sports than you might think. All it takes is one improper landing or one ill-timed blow to the face to fracture or knock out your teeth.
Fortunately, wearing a mouthguard can protect you against almost all kinds of dental injuries, and they only cost a few dollars. So there’s no excuse not to wear one.
5. Stay Hydrated
Working hard makes you sweat, and as your body loses water, it gets less able to function efficiently. At extreme levels, you could run the risk of getting dehydrated.
That’s why it’s important to keep a bottle of water on hand at all times and keep yourself adequately hydrated.
6. Warm Up Before Any Level Of Exertion
There are more than 8.6 million sports-related injuries every year, and many of them could be prevented with a simple warmup routine.
Before you start practice or head into a game, do some walking or light jogging, and shake out your body. It’s more important than most people realize.
7. Stretch After Practices And Games
After a heavy workout, practice, or game, take a few extra minutes to stretch your entire body.
Stretching relieves lactic acid buildup and helps ensure your muscles, tendons, and ligaments remain healthy and flexible. This can prevent soreness and injuries in the future.
8. Allow Yourself Plenty Of Rest
Try not to work out the same parts of your body on back-to-back days. If you want to optimize performance, your rest periods are as important as your training periods.
After a particularly rough practice session or game, give yourself a day or two of rest before heading back.
9. Optimize Your Nutritional Intake
Don’t underestimate the value of nutrition in keeping you in peak shape.
You’ll want to eat some carbohydrates before exercising to keep your energy levels high, and a good dose of protein before, during, or after that activity to promote healing and recovery.
And of course, fruits and vegetables are always welcome additions in your regular diet.
10. Never Train While Injured Or In Pain
It’s not usually a good idea to “play through the pain,” despite the common acceptance and use of that phrase.
If you feel soreness or pain in the middle of a practice or match, don’t keep playing.
Follow the RICE method, with Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation, and only return to your activity when the pain goes away.
If the pain persists, make sure you see a doctor before it gets any worse, and use NSAIDs to manage the pain in the meantime.
Listen To Your Body
Our bodies are pretty good at letting us know when something’s wrong, so listen to it.
If you feel like you’re pushing yourself too hard, you probably are. Or if you’re in pain, you should probably stop whatever you’re doing. Also, if your heart seems like it’s pounding out of your chest, tone it down.
The more proactive you are, and the more attention you pay to your body, the less likely you’ll be to injure yourself, especially when starting a new sport.