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Ready for Round One?

When you are ready to take your first jog or play your first game of the season, take it easy.

"A good starting point is to begin at a level that is manageable using common sense, and underestimate your ability," says Alan Davis, MD, an orthopaedic surgeon at The Cleveland Clinic. "You regress a tremendous amount over the winter if all you present to your body is a chair at work during the day, a couch at night, and a bar stool on weekends. If you then you go out and try to exercise right off the bat, you put your body at risk for some form of an overuse injury."

Davis, who is also head team doctor for the Cleveland Barons Hockey Club, recommends that golfers start practicing at the driving range with slow and easy swings, and work their way up to a faster swing. Golfers, he says, should also incorporate stretching and strengthening into their exercise program to target the lower back, trunk, and arms, and should prepare for walking on uneven ground.

Tennis players, meanwhile, should concentrate their exercise program on the upper body -- work on stretching and strengthening the shoulders and arms, and should prepare their bodies for the stop-and-go pivoting and sprinting actions of tennis.

"People sometimes go out and serve the ball 100 times on the first nice day of the season, and then they come in with an injured rotator cuff or elbow tendon," he tells WebMD. "It is doing too much, too soon."

If you're a jogger, he says, you should start your exercise program with a walking regimen and from there, try to improve either your speed or mileage by about 10% a week. "Jogging 10% faster every week, or increasing your mileage by 10% a week, is usually a safe way to go," he says.

Preventing Pain and Strains

This all sounds like a lot of work before you even start the spring sports season. But without the right exercise program and plenty of preparation, you're at risk for injury.

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