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NEWS | June 16, 2014

Critical days, critical decisions: Risk management for athletes

By Airman 1st Class Areca T. Wilson 633rd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

Editor's Note: This feature is a part of a series highlighting Critical Days of Summer safety tips.

The Critical Days of Summer kicked off May 23 and will run until Sept. 2. Week five highlights the importance of risk management during physical activities.

According to the U.S. Air Force Safety Center, 105 mishaps resulting in injury were reported across the Air Force during the summer of 2013 due to improper stretching or warming-up.

Though military members may have worked out at the gym during the winter, special preparation is still needed before partaking in their favorite summer sports according to U.S. Air Force Safety Center.

Too much activity too soon may result in injury, therefore it's recommended to ease into an activity at a comfortable level, gradually increasing the intensity over a period of four to six weeks. 

Attempting to go above your skill level can lead to disaster and with the proper preparation, sports injuries can often be prevented, according to the U.S. Air Force Safety Center.

Service members can take the time to warm-up and stretch properly, get adequate rest, hydrate, respond promptly to injuries, participate in a variety of sports, use proper equipment or get a sports physical to improve personal risk management.

Below are recommendations to improve personal risk management when partaking in physical activities during the summer:

- Warm up - Ten minutes of light jogging or cycling before practice will increase circulation to cold muscles, making them more pliable and less prone to strain or rupture.

- Stretching - Tight muscles have a tendency to injury and put more stress on the attached tendons and bones, placing these tissues at risk for injury as well. Regular stretching can improve muscle flexibility. The ideal time to stretch is after your workout, including all major muscle groups, holding each stretch for 20 to 30 seconds without bouncing.

- Rest - Allow an appropriate amount of time for rest and recovery between workouts and schedule at least one to two days off each week. It is also important to schedule an "off-season" or a minimum of four weeks of rest from sports each year.

- Hydrate - Drink before, during and after workouts. Drink water for exercise that lasts less than an hour. Use a sports drink for longer workouts. Avoid caffeine, juices and carbonated beverages.

- Respond promptly to injuries - Pain is a sign of injury, stress or overuse. If it does not resolve after a day or two of rest, consult a physician. The sooner an injury is identified, the sooner proper treatment can begin. The result is shorter healing time and a faster return to sporting activities.

- Participate in a variety of sports - A variety of sports provides for balanced muscle development, prevents burnout and decreases the risk for overuse injuries. Specializing in only one sport is not recommended until after puberty.

- Begin new activities slowly - A good way to prepare for a new sport is to participate in a pre-season conditioning program. Increase distance or duration no more than 10 percent per week.

- Use the right equipment - Be sure equipment fits properly and is in good condition. Runners should change their shoes every 300 to 500 miles.

- Get a sports physical - Before sports seasons begin, find a sports medicine physician who can help assess readiness for sports, address any medical issues that may cause risk of injury and offer recommendations to ensure safe sports participation.

For more information about safety, contact the 633rd Air Base Wing Safety Office at 633ABW/