Are you a weekend warrior? You are if your work and family demands keep you from exercising on a regular basis, so you make up for it by going “all out” on the weekends. But that Saturday morning pickup basketball game, football game or boot camp can leave you with aches and pains – or worse yet, a serious injury.
Each day, more than 10,000 Americans visit emergency rooms for sports and exercise-related injuries, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention . Experts say weekend-warrior injuries are most common among formerly active men over age 30 whose weekend activities can be described as “too much, too fast, too far.” Even men who consider themselves in fairly good shape and take part in a highly-charged soccer game can end up with weekend-warrior injuries.
“If you don’t exercise on a regular basis and you’re not conditioned for a particular sport or activity, you put yourself at risk for injury,” said Alexander van der Ven, M.D. , a Baptist Health Medical Group  orthopedic surgeon with Doctors Hospital Center for Orthopedics & Sports Medicine.
Regular exercise, he says, offers these important benefits:
• Keeps your weight under control, which reduces stress on your joints, especially your hips and knees.
• Maintains your muscle strength to help prevent arthritis and keep your joints flexible and protect them from damage.
• Releases endorphins, which act as your body’s natural pain medication.
According to the National Institutes of Health , weekend-warrior injuries can occur for a variety of reasons, including poor physical conditioning and flexibility, failure to warm up and stretch muscles, competition intensity, participation in collision and contact sports and overuse of joints.
The most common injuries include sprains, strains, fractures, dislocation and inflammation. That means orthopedic surgeons like Dr. van der Ven see many patients with sprained ankles, shin splints, rotator cuff injuries, Achilles tendonitis, lower back pain, plantar fasciitis (heel pain) and knee pain.
“The knee is at high risk for injury because of its complexity and the enormous amount of force it absorbs and stress it takes,” Dr. van der Ven explained. “Knee injuries often result from a blow to the knee, twisting or turning or an improper landing.”
The risk of injury does not mean you shouldn’t be active, though, and avoiding these injuries requires some common-sense prevention. Dr. van der Ven offers this advice:
• Exercise regularly and include a variety of cardiovascular activity, stretching and weightlifting in your routine. Cross-training helps to prevent overuse injuries, which develop from constantly using the same muscles and tendons.
• Warm up and stretch to help prevent sprains.
• Gradually increase your activity level – and intensity level – on a week-to-week basis.
• Use proper technique.
• Use proper gear and safety equipment.
• Listen to your body. The “no pain, no gain” theory is not a good mantra.
“Stop when you are fatigued,” Dr. van der Ven recommended. “Muscle fatigue takes away your protective mechanisms and increases your risk of injury. And if you feel sharp or stabbing pain, stop exercising immediately.”
Dr. van der Ven will offer more tips to prevent joint and knee pain at the inaugural Men’s Health Event  Saturday, May 3, 10 a.m.-2 p.m., at the Doctors Hospital Training Facility at Nova Southeastern University. You’ll learn the importance of seeing your doctor for an evaluation if you suffer an injury. And you’ll be relieved to discover that most injuries can be treated with rest, anti-inflammatory medications, immobilization and rehabilitation.
The Men’s Health Event, sponsored by Baptist Health and the Miami Dolphins , is Saturday, May 3, 10 a.m.-2 p.m., at the Doctors Hospital Training Facility at Nova Southeastern University, 7300 SW 30 St., Davie. Space is limited and reservations are required. Call 954-837-1130 or email Programs  to register.