Play Hard, Play Safe

From my Healthy Living column in Moncton’s Times & Transcript.

While my family and I were exiting a circus performance late one evening during our trip to the Magdelan Islands in Quebec, my little brother heard yelling and informed us that someone had been injured. The person injured was not an acrobat or a tightrope walker as might be expected, but an older woman wearing flipflops who had slipped on the mud in the parking lot while trying to get into her car. Later, we found out that her fall had broken her ankle, grotesquely protruding her tibia from her leg and causing her an immense amount of pain.

Musculoskeletal injuries aren’t just some of the most gruesome sights to see. Musculoskeletal injuries, along with other injuries, are the leading cause of hospitalization for children, young adults (that’s us!), and seniors according to Statistics Canada. Contrary to popular belief, fragile Grandma isn’t the most likely to be injured. The age group who has the largest percentage of victims is teenagers aged 12 to 19. We’re young and don’t have bones weakened by osteoporosis– we’re not breaking bones by slipping on a patch of mud in the parking lot as the more ”wise” members of our society do. Rather, we are injured because we’re more active and play sports. The most common injury-causing activity for all age groups is participation in sports and physical activity. 

Circus acrobats can pull off incredible stunts and remain injury-freeObviously, playing sports and being physically active does not ascertain that you will break a bone in the future. In fact, being weight-bearing exercise can stimulate osteoblastes in your bones, increasing the amount of calcium your bones absorb from your blood and ultimately increasing your bone density and reducing your risk of osteoporosis and related musculoskeletal injuries later on. 

Injuries occur when body tissues exceed their failure tolerance. That is, their ability to respond adequately to a physical challenge. Kudos is deserved to top-notch equipment when seeking to prevent injuries. Materials we put to work other than the biological ones that form us when we exercise affect the incidence of injury. Roger Bartlett in his Sports Biomechanics textbook explains how the adoption of fibre glass poles by vaulting athletes who had previously used metal poles made injury rates plummet. Fibre glass is tough and strong and better suited for vaulting poles due to its being composed of a mix of glass fibers and polymers, the big molecules that make up plastics.

As we Monctonians enjoy the last few activity-packed weeks of summer and practice for the upcoming fall sports season, let’s remember to use appropriate equipment, wear protective gear, and properly fitting shoes and clothing while working out and playing hard.  You’ll reduce your risk of hobbling back to school on a pair of crutches or sporting an oh-so fashionable cast when September comes.

Originally published in the Times & Transcript on August 20th, 2011.


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