Hiking, biking, swimming - it's summertime, and many of us are doing lots of different activities and spending more time outside. Those activities however don’t come without some risk of injury.
“Being a shoulder surgeon, I see a lot of significant shoulder injuries during the summer months, people are becoming more active especially as we get out of this pandemic,” said Dr. Adam Seidl an orthopedic surgeon with CU Medicine Orthopedics and specializes in shoulder and elbow problems.
We talked with him about the types of injuries he sees, especially in the summer.
General ways to avoid injuries
It might just be excitement to get outside, especially after spending most of the last year and a half in our homes, but Seidl says he’s noticing a lot of people getting injured doing activities they haven’t done in a long time or are doing for the first time, “The main ones that I see are fractures around the shoulder joint, I see a ton of clavicle fractures, the big sport for that is mountain biking. I also see a ton of rotator cuff tears. As people are getting outside, doing work on their home, climbing ladders and falling – or having injuries where you can tear your rotator cuff.”
Avoiding injury takes planning and preparation. You can do exercises specific to the type of activity you would like to do to help get your body ready, “It’s a good idea to get in an exercise program. A lot of those exercise programs involve specific exercises for your shoulder, for your rotator cuff to keep those muscles strong and well-conditioned so you’re less likely to have an injury,” Seidel added.
The biggest tip Seidl offered is just to stay safe and stay smart. Make sure you are doing something you feel comfortable doing and have done before, “I would encourage you to not do the hardest hill on the mountain bike hill if you’re mountain biking for the first time,” he said as an example.
Prepare for the activity you want to do:
Stretch before the activity – stretching helps you prepare to move. A few dynamic stretches like arms overhead, squats, lunges, twists, will get you primed for movement.
- Take breaks when needed and hydrate and don’t overdo it
- Use the right equipment for the activity – helmet for biking, correct footwear for hiking, etc.
- Go slow when starting new sports – take the time to train and exercise to prepare yourself
- Use tools with longer handles or have raised planters in your yard to make maintenance and gardening easier on your body.
- Take a buddy to avoid more serious injuries during outdoor activities. A muscle strain or minor ankle twist can turn more dangerous if you are alone or unable to access help. If you don’t want to take a buddy at least let a family member or friend know of your planned activity, route, and time of return.
When to seek care from an orthopedic specialist or surgeon
Many people are unsure when or if they need an orthopedic specialist. It might start with a visit to your primary care doctor and they will refer you if needed, but Dr. Seidl says you may need to see an orthopedic specialist if:
- You have chronic pain or pain that lasts more than several days
- After a specific event where you felt something tear, pull, pop
- Loss of normal function with the shoulder – inability to lift arm higher than shoulder height, or over your head