Healthy Buffs: Ask the Expert – Preventing Injuries

Whether it’s going to the gym, playing sports or walking across campus, sometimes injuries can happen and get in the way of our daily routines. Annie Sirotniak, a physical therapist at Wardenburg Health Services, gives us some tips on how to prevent injuries and what we can do if they occur.

What are some common injuries that students come in for?

The injuries that we see are often reflective of the types of activities that students are doing. Students are coming in with musculoskeletal problems such as ankle sprains, knee pain, hip pain, back pain and concussions. We also see a lot of overuse injuries from people like musicians and dancers who do a repetitive activity. Being on a college campus also increases the risk for accidents and injuries involving pedestrians, bikers and skateboarders.

What recommendations do you have for people who are currently dealing with injuries?

Injuries can vary so much that it’s hard to give any one thing that’s applicable in all instances. Something that really works if someone has a swollen ankle or knee is PRICE or RICE: Protection, Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation. In general, resting and taking pressure off the area where the pain is occurring is a good first step.

If the pain isn’t getting better, if swelling continues, or if someone can’t return to their preferred activity – it’s a good thing to consult with a medical provider or physical therapist to figure out what’s really going on. For example, with running or overuse injuries, often taking time off and resting would be a good start. But getting to the “why” is really important if someone wants to learn how to prevent it in the future.

What are some things that people can do to stay safe and prevent injuries while doing physical activity?

There are a variety of things that can be done to help reduce the risk of injury before, during and after physical activity.

  • Incorporate dynamic warm up exercises before playing intensive sports like soccer
  • Warm up and stretch the muscles that will be used for an activity
  • Gradually increase how much work your muscles are doing
  • Cool down with slow, steady stretching while the muscles are still warm

Another skill that is good to practice is tuning in to what our bodies are telling us by practicing skills such as mindfulness. By listening to our bodies, we can be more aware of when we might be pushing too hard or when we might need a break. A lot of times students get stiff and tight from excess computer work, so being mindful of sitting up straight, or doing breathing exercises and stretching our necks can be helpful when trying to prevent neck and back pain. In addition, being mindful of our surroundings not only allows us to be more aware of people around us, but it also helps us be more present on our beautiful campus!

What resources are there that students can use?

Wardenburg Health Services offers a Musculoskeletal Injury “MSK” Clinic which is free for CU students. There, a physical therapist provides screenings for minor injuries involving muscles and joints and gives recommendations for injury prevention and self-care. MSK is available at Wardenburg Health Center and at the Rec Center on a walk-in basis during designated hours.

There is also an athletic trainer who works at the Rec Center in the afternoons who can help if someone has an injury as well as personal trainers who have knowledge around safe ways to exercise.

About the Expert:anniesirotniak

Sirotniak has been working at Wardenburg Physical Therapy and Integrative Care for 23 years. She got her master’s and doctoral degree in physical therapy from CU Denver, and became an orthopedic clinical specialist in 2010. Prior to her career in physical therapy, she was a professional bike racer, and former CU Women’s Cycling team coach. She enjoys working with CU students of all ages and with all backgrounds – from musician to graduate student/lab worker to club sport athlete. She is an avid musician and multi-instrumentalist in bluegrass and traditional Irish music genres, and is involved in music promotion and production in Lyons CO.

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