October 19, 2018

Stay in the Game: Smart Habits for Injury Prevention and Lifelong Health

By Thomas Starnes, MD

A broken bone or an injured joint while doing something you love can be painful and set you back for a while. Though not always preventable, there are things you can do that will not only reduce your risk for such injuries, but actually enhance your overall health and well-being. With time and commitment, you can live your best life longer.


Foam rolling prior to stretching helps to increase the mobility of muscle fibers as well as increasing blood flow, temperature and the viscoelastic nature of the muscle. This helps to loosen restrictions and adhesions, and is a helpful tool to determine problem areas and asymmetries, which you can focus on when you stretch. By working on flexibility you reduce the risk of injury and help to ensure that your muscles are functioning properly.


Calories should be coming from quality, nutrient-dense foods. Carbohydrates should come from whole grains, fruits and vegetables. Protein should be eaten throughout the day coming from fish, poultry, meat, eggs and beans to name a few. Fats such as oils, butters, nuts and fish are important to consume to have their anti-inflammatory effect. Calcium and vitamin D are crucial to help maintain bone density. Foods rich in calcium are collard greens, spinach and dairy. Foods rich in vitamin D are fatty fish, cheese, egg yolks and orange juice. Natural sunlight is also a good source of vitamin D.


Maintaining muscle mass and preventing muscle loss is crucial for the older athlete. Strength and resistance training is the first line of defense to prevent and reverse the loss of muscle; in addition, strength training can help with nonorthopedic medical conditions such as diabetes. Preserving muscle helps the body better handle the forces of impact activities like running and activities of daily living. Adequate muscle also stabilizes stride form and running cadence, which helps to keep the body in its natural movement rhythm.


Mix it up. Working on strength, speed, endurance, range of motion, proprioception and neuromuscular coordination will help to achieve all of the components of fitness. Incorporating an assortment of exercises will help to prevent burnout and boredom while working toward overall health. Different muscle groups and exercises can be rotated in on alternating days to provide adequate rest and to help minimize muscle soreness. Finding something you enjoy will help keep you motivated without feeling like exercising is a burden. Having an open mind and trying new things can help you discover many new forms of exercise.


Electrolyte balance and proper nutrition are crucial to help your body function properly. For best practice, make sure you take in plenty of water throughout the day leading up to the athletic event or intensive activity. Also, consuming a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, starches and proteins will help fuel your exercise and allow for ideal recovery.


Adopt a positive mindset. Find new races, exercise classes or events in your area in which to participate. New friendships and interests are gained by trying new things and getting involved in the fitness community. Set goals to help you stay determined and motivated along the way. Celebrate your milestones and achievements along the way. Be patient with your body and listen to its feedback.

Thomas Starnes, MD, is a primary care sports medicine physician with Asheville Orthopaedic Associates at Mission Orthopedics and Spine of Hendersonville.

Mission Orthopedic and Spine welcomes patients twelve years of age and older, offering the latest procedures, techniques and treatments for a wide variety of orthopedic and spine needs: elbow, hand, hip, knee, joint, shoulder, sports medicine, spine, rehabilitation and physical medicine.

Available for walk-in and appointments at two locations in Hendersonville and Biltmore Park in Asheville. To make an appointment, call 828-252-7331. Learn more at missionhealth.org/orthopedics.