You’re dribbling the ball, running toward the hoop. When you see that the shot is close enough, you bend your knee then bend your elbow and extend to shoot the perfect layup. Or maybe you’re lining up your club for the perfect drive; you pull the club back and bend your elbows and knees, then swing through the ball and let your back twist with the motion of your swing.
What made those movements possible? What is it that allows things be so fluid and smooth? How does your body work so mechanically?
The answer to all of these questions is: your joints! And without them, you wouldn’t be the individual that you are today.
Joints serve as the connections between your bones allowing movement and flexibility. The 360 joints within your body are made up of three parts: cartilage, synovium, and synovial fluid. These parts allow you to bend at certain points such as your knees, elbows, back, neck, and ankles. Cartilage is the firm, whitish, flexible connective tissue found in various forms of the cartilage that protects your knees. Synovium is a soft tissue membrane found between the joint capsule and the joint cavity. The synovium then secretes the synovial fluid which fills the joint cavity and lubricates the joint.
Joints are essential to movement and need support due to the stress and physical activity our bodies go through and that is why joint health is essential to athletes. Without taking proper care of their joints, athletes would be unable to support more muscle mass and would suffer from long-term injuries as their athletic careers advanced.
Let’s take a look at what can occur if joint health is neglected and some methods that can help reduce joint related injuries.
When talking about joint health, an athlete’s biggest enemy is inflammation. Inflammation occurs when our body goes through pain, illness, injury, and stress. The body will inflame near the site of the injury which dilates the blood vessels, bringing increased blood flow to begin the natural healing process. This all sounds normal, right?
Well, it is, but not if inflammation is constant and active at a low level which can damage the body instead of heal. Inflammation works to break down bad tissues, attack pathogens (a substance that causes disease), and rebuild healthy tissue, but constant inflammation can cause the body to attack healthy tissues as well. This damage can create a perfect home for diseases such as arthritis, heart disease, obesity, autoimmune diseases, and gastrointestinal disorders.
The solution to maintaining inflammation is a healthy, balanced diet, plenty of sleep, the right amount of physical activity (not too much, not too little), gut health, and a balance of omega 3 & 6 fatty acids. While the average person should strive for this healthy lifestyle as we age, athletes need to maintain inflammation more than any of us due to their increased physical activity. With an increased level of stress on their bodies, there is an increase in inflammation. So how should athletes specifically maintain inflammation and in turn maintain joint health?
- Fill your diet with fruits, vegetables, quality proteins, healthy fats, and whole grains. Cut out processed sugars as these can cause increased inflammation. Antioxidants, fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals are vital to joint health and will need to be included in your everyday diet.
- Make sure you are managing your stress and getting enough rest at night. A good night’s rest is around 8-10 hours of sleep a night; without proper rest, your body will not recover and your performance the next day will lack.
- Do not over-train your body as this will cause inflammation as well. Make sure you schedule your activities to give muscles groups a break especially if you have worked on them the previous day. Also, include a day or two of rest from working out to allow your muscles to recuperate.
- Take supplements. Researchers recommend the following supplements to boost joint health in individuals as well as athletes:
- Omega 3 Fatty Acids or Fish Oil – proven to reduce inflammation, stiffness, and joint tenderness.
- Glucosamine – an amino sugar and type of carbohydrate that acts as a structural tissue that supports cartilage, ligaments, and tendons
- Chondroitin Sulfate – a natural component that repairs damaged cartilage and blocks enzymes that break down cartilage
Stay healthy and keep up with your therapist! We want to keep you running at peak performance.
Now that’s Rock Solid Rehab.