Immediate Medical Attention

Playing sports and other physical activities are a big part of many men's lives. But, sports injuries can sideline them from the fun. "In Minnesota, we have an active outdoor lifestyle and sport injuries can run the gamut," says Erich Zeitz, MD, Park Nicollet Methodist Hospital Emergency Center. "We see a lot of people with injuries from playing basketball, hockey and softball." With proper precautions, however, he says most men can avoid sports-related injuries.

Most injuries result from overuse or engaging in activities without proper preparation. "In the emergency room, we see men who do not warm up or who put in a day of sports that are way beyond their abilities or what they can tolerate," he says. "We also see a lot of overuse injuries, such as tennis or golf elbow. Runners also can be affected if they train on an injured leg or foot." Another common sports-related injury in men is damage to the Achilles tendon.

Seeking treatment

Some sports-related injuries require immediate medical attention. "People should see a doctor if they have any kind of head injury or lose consciousness," Dr. Zeitz says. "They also should come in if they have a laceration that does not close well, because it might become infected or leave scar tissue. Bone injuries also require treatment because they can lead to abnormal joint function, which can become permanent."

For less serious injuries, men can try self-care. "Usually, patients can first try conservative things, such as rest and ice. Patients also can try taking anti-inflammatory medications, such as ibuprofen," Dr. Zeitz says. A good acronym to remember self-care options is RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation). If injuries do not improve within a couple of days, men are encouraged to see a doctor.

Tips to avoid injuries

Although injuries happen, Dr. Zeitz suggests the following tips to help avoid them.

Warm up before exercising. If you anticipate physical activity, try to walk and stretch beforehand.

Use protective equipment. Always wear a helmet, mouth guard, wrist pads and elbow pads if your sport requires them.

Listen to what your body is telling you. Be in tune to when your body tells you it is tired and what it is and isn't capable of doing.

Don't train through pain. Pay attention to pain or discomfort that you have during your exercise routine that doesn't go away when you stop or change your stride.

Boosting overall fitness can help improve strength and stamina and keep sports-related injuries to a minimum, Dr. Zeitz says. "Being more active everyday can help," he adds.