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Exercise Plays Role in Recovery From Sports Injuries

Expert says goal is to maintain strength, not gain it, while you mend

WEDNESDAY, April 23 (HealthDay News) -- If you're an athlete or fitness enthusiast who suffers a strained muscle, sprained ankle or foot injury, you don't necessarily have to stop exercising.

"Exercise can definitely be beneficial for a person dealing with an injury. Depending on its type, the injured area should be moved and not left in place for a long period of time," Colleen Greene, wellness coordinator with MFit, the University of Michigan Health System's health promotion division, said in a prepared statement.

"Some people think they should just rest and not move at all with an injury. Doing that can actually be worse because -- depending on the amount of time one does not move the appendage -- the muscle might begin to atrophy," Greene said.

If you suffer an injury, the general rule of thumb for initial treatment is Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation (RICE). Once you've done that, consult a doctor as soon as possible. If the injury is severe enough, you may be referred to a physical therapist or specialist trainer. They'll help guide your recovery and offer tips on how to maintain strength while you heal.

The goal is to maintain strength, not to gain it, while you recover, said Greene, who added that you should pay attention to pain as you try different workouts.

"Pain is always the indicator; discomfort is OK, but pain tells you when you should stop what you are doing and do something else. You always want to keep in mind that you should be doing something that doesn't re-injure or further injure yourself," she said.

It's best to avoid injury in the first place, and there are preventive measures you can take to avoid pulling or straining a muscle: Warm up for five to 10 minutes; cool down at the end of your workout; and stretch.

"We find that as people age, they can actually pull muscles by doing everyday things such as bending over to grab a bag of groceries or leaning over to put something on a shelf," Greene said. "So the preventative measures that should be taken to avoid pulling or tearing a muscle with exercise are also measures that should be taken to avoid tearing or pulling a muscle in everyday life, not just on a basketball court."

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases has more about sports injuries.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: University of Michigan Health System, news release, April 2008

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