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Super Bowl madness. 5 ways to prevent sports injuries

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While Super Bowl is a once a year activity enjoyed by millions of viewers nationwide, the reality of injuries that occur as a result of playing football and other types of sports is a daily occurrence for many warns Brian Bacot, M.D., an orthopedic surgeon who practices in St. Thomas and St. Croix in the US Virgin Islands. www.cogvi.com

"A sports injury can happen in a split second even for the most prepared professional athlete," noted Dr. Brian Bacot. "How a person prepares and plans for a sport is critical, even if it's something as simple as a morning jog."

The most common injuries to occur on the football field according to Dr. Bacot are concussions, shoulder sprains and dislocations, knee sprains and ligament tears and ankle injuries. While an orthopedic surgeon doesn't necessarily treat a concussion, it is something they should be made aware of because it can result in other head, neck and spinal conditions. Concussions are serious, and often occur without any loss of consciousness making the athlete or coach think everything is ok. However, a concussion is a trauma to the brain and can result in death if not treated properly. Wearing helmets, of course, is recommended to help protect a player from a head injury and a new study finds differences in concussion risk depending upon the type of helmet that is worn.

According to a recent press release issued by Virginia Tech, the study analyzed head impact data compiled from eight collegiate football teams that included Virginia Tech, University of North Carolina, University of Oklahoma, Dartmouth College, Brown University, University of Minnesota, Indiana University, and University of Illinois. Six years of data were collected and during this time a total of 1833 players wore helmets that were equipped with sensors to measure the biomechanics of over one million head impacts. All players either wore a Riddell VSR4 or Riddell Revolution helmet. The researchers compared the rates of concussion risk for players in the Riddell Revolution compared to players in the VSR4 helmet.

"While a helmet cannot prevent all head concussions, the study by Virginia Tech is at least a step in the right direction allowing us to understand the true value of helmets during a game," said Dr. Bacot. "But football is not the only sport where we see concussions. We have had patients suffering a concussion from everything including a snow skiing accident to a baseball hit."

At his practices on St. Thomas and St. Croix, Dr. Bacot is no stranger to sports injuries as many people and professional athletes from around the globe fly to his state-of-the-art orthopedic surgery center located on St. Thomas for treatment. Comprehensive Orthopaedic Global Virgin Islands, COGVI, www.cogvi.com has become one of the busiest orthopedic surgical centers in both the US Virgin Islands and the British Virgin Islands combined due to Dr. Bacot's high level of surgical expertise and patient care.

Sports medicine is a subspecialty of orthopedics that deals with the prevention, diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation of injuries suffered during athletic activity. Due to frequent activity, wear-and-tear of equipment and risk of a fall or accident associated with sports activities, athletes are often susceptible to orthopedic injuries, including stress fractures, bone breaks, dislocations, chronic pain, or a tearing or stretching of internal structures. Different activities place different areas of the body at a higher risk for damage, so it's important to take the necessary precautions to protect oneself while playing sports of any kind.

Dr. Bacot offers these 5 simple tips to help avoid sports injuries:

1. Exercise on a regular basis. Don't try and run a 5k or a marathon without preparing for it first. Start by incorporating simple strength conditioning and aerobic exercise routines into your life, setting small workout goals. Increase your activity each week until you have developed a core strength and proper diet routine.

2. Make sure you have appropriate equipment. A muscle can be pulled or torn simply wearing the wrong shoes. Wearing running shoes to a Zumba class for instance can result in a torn calf muscle. If you are playing a more extreme sport make certain you have the correct protective equipment, i.e. shoulder pads for football, cleats for soccer, etc.

3. Diet and nutrition; before and after exercising. Before beginning a sport or exercise make sure you have had an adequate meal that includes carbohydrates, protein and healthy sugars. Feeding your body is extremely important to prevent injury and sustain stamina before, during and after a sports activity. Proper food intake allows the body to heal and replenish vital nutrients after a workout.

4. Stay hydrated. Drinking adequate water and electrolytes is of utmost importance. But understanding when you are over heating during a sports activity is equally important. Dehydration can lead to fatigue and disorientation which will lead to injury. Dehydration is not only caused by lack of fluids. It can be caused by excessive sweating due to wearing the wrong type of clothing for the activity. Make sure to wear breathable sports clothing for high cardiovascular activities. Also, be aware of weather conditions and temperatures. Extremely hot weather can lead to faster levels of dehydration.

5. Rest and recuperation. Resting between workouts is important. So is getting a good night's sleep before a big activity such as a marathon. During sleep is when the body can heal itself so make sure you get plenty of rest.

"I also highly recommend daily stretching to keep the body flexible at all times, and that patients splint any previously injured areas so as to not cause further injury," said Dr. Bacot. "Exercise is healthy for the body and the mind and if we can keep it injury free it's an activity that can be enjoyed for a lifetime."

Sources: www.cogvi.com, www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/news/fullstory_144227.html, www.vtnews.vt.edu/articles/2014/01/013114-engineering-conussionriskhelmets.html, www.cdc.gov/concussion/HeadsUp/pdf/Football_Fact_Sheet_Coaches-a.pdf

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