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After months of cold, gray winter, the first signs of spring send Chicagoans flocking outdoors for their first warm(er) weather runs, bike rides and workouts of the season. The balmy weather and sunshine are enticing, but can cause unexpected injuries for those doing too much, too soon, after too many months cooped up inside.
Whether it’s because you’ve only been doing indoor workouts or because your winter involved too much Netflix-meets-couch time, spring sports injuries can be common and can sideline the most well-intentioned weekend warrior during what's arguably the best time of the year.
With that in mind, we asked University of Chicago Medicine sports medicine experts to give us the best advice to stay safe during springtime exercise following a winter hiatus. Here’s what they had to say:
A: In the winter, we see a lot of broken bones, muscle strains and ligament injuries that happen when people fall on the ice or injure themselves doing winter activities like skiing. When the weather warms up, athletes tend to want to go back to their sports and quickly make up for the time they were inside. But increasing intensity and volume quickly can often lead to tendonitis.
A: In order to perform at the desired level and protect ourselves from injuries, we all need to take steps to prepare for our sport. That means spending time during the off-season diversifying the types of activities we do. Let me put it another way: we need to make sure we work our bodies in different ways. It's important to help decrease the stress of a repetitive motion, which goes a long way toward preventing injuries. For people with spring sporting events lined up, make sure your winter includes exploring new exercises to activate your core and build strength on the upper and lower body. Pilates, yoga, swimming, aqua jogging and weight training are great cross-training activities to help stress the body in a different pattern. It is also a great way to motivate yourself in those gloomy winter weather days. For runners and triathletes, strength training is not intended to build the muscle mass like a weight lifter but to develop strength, power and endurance. It has been shown to improve running performance and decrease injuries.
A: There’s a lot of options! Here’s my best five:
A: My best advice is to make sure you listen to your body. Working out is not about fighting through pain. Muscle soreness and the sensation of a good workout is what we are looking for. If pain has been persistent for more than two weeks even though you’ve been resting it, icing it and limiting your physical activity, it’s time to have it looked at. Swelling and bruising could indicate a more serious injury.
To schedule an appointment with UChicago Medicine’s sports medicine team contact 1-888-824-0200 or request an appointment online.