Palette Magazine

Wear and tear of being a weekend warrior

By Wyatt Myers

Illustration: Barbara Pollak-Lewis

If you’re one of the millions of Americans that’s chained to a desk all week, the idea of getting outside and working on the house, playing with the kids or participating in a sport is certainly appealing. While weekend physical activity is by no means a bad thing, it does have its unfortunate downside: namely, an increased risk of injury. But keeping an eye out for the most common injuries is relatively simple and so is getting better when you do overexert yourself.


How Did I Do That?

“The injuries we see most frequently are shoulder injuries, lower back injuries, ankle sprains, calf strains, knee sprains and overuse injuries,” says Clifton L. Page, MD, a primary care sports medicine physician at the University of Miami Health System. According to Dr. Page, there’s a simple reason that a Saturday pick-up soccer game or helping a friend move on the weekend can result in injury. In many cases, people are performing activities that are out of the ordinary for them. What’s more, most don’t prepare their bodies properly before those activities.

“Most injuries are sustained when patients have not warmed up properly or performed muscle activation prior to a workout,” he says. “Not having proper form and technique while lifting weights is another common cause of injury,

as is not having proper hydration

or nutrition.”

When it comes to home maintenance and repairs, a 2012 study in the Journal of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery noted that many “weekend warriors” attempt jobs without the safety precautions and equipment that professionals use. Often this lack of preparation results in falls and other accidents that can result in potentially serious trauma.


Ouch! Don’t Touch It!

If you do injure yourself during an activity, the first step you need to take is to assess the severity of the damage, says Jose Lampreabe, MD, a primary care physician at Mount Sinai Medical Center. If you can’t put weight on an extremity, experience swelling or significant pain or have back or neck pain that’s accompanied by weakness, numbness or tingling, then he suggests seeking medical attention.

For minor aches or pains, it may be appropriate to treat the injury using the RICE method — rest, ice, compression and elevation. More specifically, Dr. Page recommends resting the injured body part by avoiding the offending activity, applying ice in 20-minute intervals throughout the day and compressing or elevating the injured body part to help it heal. Over-the-counter pain medications may help ease the discomfort, but Dr. Lampreabe warns against relying too heavily on these medications.


Safety First

That said, active people should not be discouraged from enjoying their favorite hobbies. Studies have shown that any form of exercise is a good thing. The key is taking the proper measures to prevent injuries, especially if you’re participating in an activity you don’t perform frequently. Dr. Page says it’s crucial to recognize your own limits. If you feel like you’re “playing through the pain,” then it’s time to stop.

Ice or Heat?

Usually, any new injury should be treated with ice, not heat. Because heat tends to make the injured part of the body more inflamed, it is not a good way to decrease swelling. Using ice does not only address inflammation, but in doing so also tends to decrease pain and speed healing.