The Southeastern Spine Institute

Playing sports provides a healthy alternative to exercising alone. In addition to the physical benefits, playing sports also benefits you by:

  • Building teamwork skills
  • Developing friendships
  • Improving your mood
  • Decreasing depression

While sports are fun and healthy, you’re more apt to hurt yourself in the competitive spirit if you don’t take appropriate precautions. Injuring your back can be devastating. According to the American Physical Therapy Association, an average of 8.6 million people of all ages suffer recreational sports-related injuries every year. Nearly 25 percent of competitive athletes are injured annually.

If you previously experienced a back injury or currently have back pain, you need to be especially careful to protect your back. In fact, you should ask your spine specialist at Southeastern Spine Institute (SSI) what you can play safely. While you’re there, get tips on how to protect your back playing sports.

Common Back Injuries from Playing Sports

The most common back injuries that happen during sports are strains and sprains. Back strains occur when a muscle or tendon holding a bone is torn or pulled. Back sprains happen when a ligament holding two or more bones to a joint is overstretched or torn. These lower back problems can happen to anyone from a sudden injury, overuse or lack of preparation.

A more severe back injury is a fractured vertebra, in which the vertebral bones push against each other or get dislocated. This can result from sudden trauma, like getting hit hard playing football or falling while running. Watch for symptoms of back injuries that can include:

  • Pain in your lower back or abdominal area
  • Difficulty standing, walking or sitting straight
  • Bruising and swelling
  • Pain in your buttocks and legs
  • Aching, throbbing or shooting pain in your back
  • Restricted movement forward, whether bending or twisting
  • Lower back spasms or twitches during rest or movement

How to Protect Your Back Playing Sports

You have a number of ways to protect your back playing sports. Whether you’re already physically active or have been stuck to your couch or behind a desk for a long period of time, proper preparation for any sports activity helps prevent injury. Take preventative steps by:

  • Stretching
  • Warming up with light aerobics
  • Having proper, well-fitting gear
  • Knowing the right techniques of the particular sport
  • Being properly prepared

Arrive early, before the first whistle, and take time to warm up your muscles before playing. Complete light cardiovascular activities like jogging, skipping or jumping jacks to get oxygen flowing through your body and wake up your muscles. Do core warm-ups like sit-ups or leg, arm and side bending stretches to warm your muscles before an extensive sports activity.

Being properly prepared in sports can protect your back playing sports. For example:

  • Eat well so you get the nutrients necessary to keep you going
  • Drink plenty of water before playing to prevent dehydration
  • Rely on the proper athletic shoes for your specific sport
  • Avoid continued play if you experience back pain to prevent a major injury

Participating in sports can be an affirming, healthy experience. Not preparing properly to protect your back playing sports can result in a painful, devastating injury. The team at SSI applauds your efforts and wants you to enjoy your games, as long as you play it safe.