Detail image for July 2023 Health & Wellness Guide story.

According to Dr. Jennifer Daily with UofL Health, the most common summer sports injuries she sees among local women are ankle sprains and fractures.

When the temperature goes up, so does the risk of trips to the ER for you and your family. Medical experts share advice, research and treatments that can help make this summer safer.

Written by Dawn Anderson

Summertime brings an increase in physical activity. With that increase comes a boost in health benefits and, unfortunately, a jump in sports injuries. The United States Consumer Product Safety Commission’s hospital tracking data indicates that over 2 million Americans are injured annually from participating in popular summertime outdoor activities. 

The temptation might be great to dive right into favorite summer pastimes, but prevention is the key to staying safe while enjoying the sunshine. According to our experts, proper conditioning, stretching, warmups, cooldowns, safety equipment, and hydration can make all the difference in where and how you spend the rest of your summer.   

The Downside of Summer Fun

Beware of cute wedges and sandals. According to Jennifer Daily, M.D., a primary care sports medicine physician with UofL Health, the most common summer sports injuries she sees among local women are ankle sprains and fractures — many of which can be attributed to improper footwear for the activity. A Dublin research team conducting a meta-analysis of English articles using relevant computerized and online databases in 2014 found that the incidence of ankle sprain was nearly twice as high in females compared with males. Dr. Daily sees knee injuries occurring at a frequency similar to ankle injuries and often on vacations. 

New environments and terrains, such as unfamiliar hiking or running trails, beaches, and parks, enhance summer injury risk. Some of the best ways to avoid injury are using the appropriate footwear and proper preparation for the activity. Dr. Daily suggests “having good supportive shoes when you are out and about hiking, and researching the terrain beforehand.” Another smart strategy? “Look at your timeline and increase your activity to build up endurance and stamina,” Dr. Daily says. “Don’t try to do too much too fast.”

What if, despite your best-laid plans, an injury occurs? Dr. Daily uses the Ottawa Ankle Rules to assess pain and tenderness for an ankle injury, including a walking test. “If you can get up, bear weight and take more than four steps, that’s a good sign,” she says. “For minor injuries, ice, elevate, and take an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory. You might also visit an urgent care center or follow up with your primary care doctor. If you can’t bear weight or the severity of pain is too great, head to the nearest urgent care center or emergency room. You should also take lingering pain seriously.” 

Choosing Your Doctor or Therapist   

Dr. Daily says most injuries don’t require surgery and that sports medicine specialists function like orthopedists without the surgery or operating room component. Simple geographical access to care can be a determining factor in who to see for treatment. “For those with more limited availability to sports medicine specialists and orthopedists, a family medicine physician is perfectly capable of treating most injuries.”   

Most insurance companies require a visit with a physician and a referral for physical therapy following an injury. According to Dr. Daily, “Physical therapists are wonderful with many modalities to help get back to activity after injury.” She cautions against massage therapy while bruising and swelling are still present, but once those have abated, massage therapists can help with nagging pain and tightness.

Increasing Your Odds of Full Recovery

Physical therapy clinics are increasingly adding functional movement assessments to determine injury risk, training programs for injury prevention, and Blood Flow Restriction (BFR) Therapy, developments that Dr. Daily finds exciting and helpful to patients. “As physicians, we listen to our patients. Treatment plans are shared decision-making with a team-based approach, empowering patients to advocate for themselves and ensuring the care team knows their goals.”

The risks of not following through with physical therapy can be serious. “With a ligament or tendon injury, you could reinjure yourself if you don’t know how to strengthen it properly.” With the high reoccurrence rate of ankle sprains, Dr. Daily says PT can help manage that susceptibility. “There is a risk of injury to the other side if you’re overcompensating for an injury. Not seeking rehab can have a long-term impact on function and mobility.” Seeking licensed providers through a quick background check is always good sound advice.

If You Need to See a Specialist:

UofL Health – Sports Medicine 215 Central Avenue, Suite 201 Louisville, KY 40208 | Office number: 502-637-7678 | Office fax: 502-588-7589

Follow @UofLHealth on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.