Hi, I’m an almost 40-year-old guy. I noticed recently that I’ve put on a few pounds over the last 5 years and thought that it was time to get active again. I’ve been playing football with the guys for the past two weekends and every time I play I feel like I’ve been worked over. Not only am I sore and bruised from head to toe, my knees are killing me. I actually had to take a couple of days off work because my knees hurt so badly. I really need to get back into shape but if it’s always going to be this uncomfortable I know I’m not going to do it. What should I do?
It sounds like you are suffering from the all too common “too much too soon” syndrome. There are a number of ways that you can prevent this from happening in the future.
First of all, it’s important to prepare your muscles for the activities that you are going to take part in. For a sport like touch football, traditional weight training is good for developing a base but is not enough to prevent injury. Once you have developed a good strength base you should consider asking a trainer to help you include stability, motor recruitment patterning, and simple plyometrics into your routine.
Stability exercises help to build endurance and, of course, stability in joints that would be exposed to an increased risk of injury, namely your ankles, knees, and low back.
Motor recruitment patterning involves slowly rehearsing all of the muscle patterns involved in your sport. Your muscles will remember these patterns and your chance of injury will decrease.
Plyometric exercises focus on extending large to maximal muscle forces during high-speed movements, mimicking the movements of the sport that you are involved in. For a sport like touch football the plyometric exercises chosen would include lateral leg movements (i.e., lateral hops) and sudden starts and stops (i.e., shuttle runs).
With some guidance, it would not be too late for you to start implementing these activities now.
The injuries that you have had, and are experiencing now, need to be assessed by a professional. They may be simple and require nothing more than a little rest, ice, and elevation. There is however, the possibility that you have developed something more serious. Either way, once someone has assessed your situation, they will be able to give you further direction for specific rehabilitation.
Should you keep on stretching? Absolutely! Regardless of the activities that you engage in, stretching is useful in many ways. First, stretching increases the amount of blood and nutrients delivered to your joints ensuring joint health. Secondly, the more flexible you are the less energy is required from the muscle to go through its normal range of motion. If a joint is able to go through a normal range of motion there is less resistance in the muscle thus decreasing the risk of injury.
For best results when you are stretching, start with about 5 minutes of warm-up activity. Stretch before and after your game paying attention to each muscle that is going to be, or has been, used. Finally, hold each stretch for 30 seconds or more.
Again, it is important to have your injuries assessed so that you know you are doing stretches that will alleviate, rather than aggravate, your situation.
I hope this has answered your questions.
Enjoy an injury-free summer!