Miss those days playing defense for your middle school soccer team? Wondering if you’d still be any good 5 years (or maybe 35 years …) after graduation?
Well, there’s good news: you’re never too old to play.
League sports can be a ton of fun, and fortunately they aren’t just for kids anymore. Even if you’ve aged out of school teams and youth leagues, there’s an ever-growing supply of recreational leagues for men and women of all ages and ability levels.
The city of Rocky River, for example, hosts adult leagues for both volleyball and indoor soccer. Lakewood’s recreation department covers flag football, kickball, basketball, and softball. And the independent Cleveland Plays offers more than a dozen options, from competitive team and individual sports (arena football, dodgeball, floor hockey, tennis, etc.) to lifestyle and leisure (golf, yoga, bocci …) to bar games and euchre.
And those are just three examples. You may find something even closer or more to your taste, depending on where you live.
Benefits of Playing Sports
Okay, so you’re probably not surprised that a doctor is recommending you exercise. But it’s still worth spelling out the benefits.
Sports are good for your body, mind, and soul—in ways that are obvious, and some not-so-obvious.
- Builds endurance and cardiovascular fitness, which helps with all sorts of everyday tasks.
- Helps you manage your weight, which dramatically reduces your risk of developing health problems later in life.
- Helps you manage and improve health conditions you may already have, such as diabetes, hypertension, and high cholesterol.
- Improves immune system health, so you don’t get sick as often.
- Increases bone density, which helps you resist injury (and is huge for older adults).
- Builds strength, coordination, and balance.
- Helps you blow off a little steam, develop discipline, and learn to manage stress and adversity better.
- Builds relationship and develops teamwork, empathy, and mutual respect.
- They’re fun!
What to Consider Before You Play
So you’ve made the decision—you’re going to join a league. Great! We love to see our patients putting themselves out there, getting exercise, and having fun.
But nothing derails a sports season like an injury. And if you’ve been “out of action” for a while—or you’re simply trying something different and new—your risk of hurting yourself during play is higher.
That’s not a reason to quit before you even begin, of course! It just means that you should prepare yourself properly. By following these guidelines, you should have a lot more fun—and stay a lot safer on the field.
Am I conditioned properly?
You don’t have to be a paragon of personal fitness to play sports. But you also shouldn’t try to go into a season “cold” and start playing competitive games without preparing your body to face new challenges first.
Several weeks before the season starts, do a little preparatory training. Start slow and build up gradually, so by the time the season starts your body is used to more vigorous physical activity. This will greatly reduce your risk of both traumatic and overuse injuries.
Do I have appropriate gear?
League players should have all the necessary safety gear that their sport requires. They should also get a pair of sport-specific shoes.
We know, we know—it’s an added expense. But the right pair of shoes matters more than simply improving your performance. Athletic shoes are constructed with the specific forces and risks of a specific sport in mind—for example, high-topped basketball shoes for greater ankle protection.
Do I know the rules?
Understanding the rules, strategy, and expectations of the game beforehand makes everybody safer. They are for your protection, and the protection of your teammates and opponents, too.
Expert supervision from fellow players, officials, coaches, or medical staff can also promote safer play.
Are the playing conditions safe?
Avoid playing on unsafe terrain or in adverse conditions. Assess risks such as nearby walls and obstructions, cracked or uneven playing surfaces, heavy precipitation, and unusually hot, humid, or freezing weather. Don’t be afraid to speak up if you feel the conditions are too dangerous for play.
Did I warm up properly?
Five to ten minutes of stretching, low-impact exercises, and game drills are an important way to get the blood pumping and the body prepared for the game—without exposing your joints, muscles, and bones to unnecessary risk.
After the game, you should also remember to stretch!
Did I bring enough water?
If you have to ask, the answer is probably no. Hydrate before, during, and after the game. 7-10 ounces of water every 15 minutes or so of game time is pretty reasonable for most people. You should also drink a good 20 oz. a couple of hours before the game.
What to Do If You Hurt Yourself
Unfortunately, not even living in a bubble can reduce your injury risk all the way to zero. If you’re smart and you follow the above guidelines, you should be a lot safer than you would be otherwise. But, alas, you still might get hurt anyway.
If an injury does occur—whether it’s a sudden sprain or the development of chronic pain over time—you should seek out help from an experienced sports injury expert right away.
Although you might be tempted to “walk it off,” playing through pain is almost always a bad idea. It prevents chronic injuries from healing, and can quickly turn a moderate injury into a severe one.
For injuries that occur in the lower extremity—feet, ankles, shins—we stand at the ready to care for you.
A sports enthusiast himself, Dr. Ripepi works hard to keep athletes in top shape. Our team specializes in treatments that reduce recovery time, while keeping you as active and engaged as possible throughout the rehabilitation process.
To schedule an appointment, give us a call today at (440) 843-3692. Our offices are conveniently located in Rocky River and Parma.