Ways to Prevent Summer Injuries

6/9/2022 | Charlene Mitchell, PT, DPT, MBA

Summer Injuries

The weather is finally warming up and summertime activities are in full swing. Many people are enjoying swimming and plenty of relaxation time near the water; some take trips to see other parts of the country or world, while others enjoy staycations and exploring their towns and/or cities. It is not uncommon for many people to take advantage of the weather to jump start or maintain their health/fitness journey. Whatever you get into this summer, chances are that you will be more active and adventurous than you were three months ago.

But the summer months are not without their risks; with the increase in temperature, there is also an increase in the number of Urgent Care and ER visits. For healthcare professionals, the three month period that follows spring is known as “trauma season”; this is because traumatic injuries increase every year during the summer months among children and adults alike. Our goal is for you to enjoy all that summer has to offer while also keeping yourself and your loved ones happy and safe.

The following are a few of the most common risks and injuries that increase during the summer:

Heat Exhaustion and Heat Stroke

More time in the sun increases your risk for overheating. Heat exhaustion is a serious condition, and if left untreated it can progress to heat stroke, which is life threatening.

The warning signs of heat exhaustion include:

  1. Feeling faint or dizzy
  2. Excessive sweating
  3. Muscle cramping
  4. Cool, pale, clammy skin
  5. Nausea or vomiting
  6. Rapid, weak pulse

The escalation of heat exhaustion can lead to heat stroke with the following symptoms:

  1. Body temp higher than 103 degrees F
  2. Red, hot, dry skin (no sweating)
  3. Throbbing headache
  4. Nausea or vomiting
  5. Confusion
  6. Rapid, strong pulse
  7. Unconsciousness

The most sure-fire way to treat any heat-related illness is to prevent it from happening in the first place! Be sure to wear sunscreen, protective clothing, drink plenty of water and limit your time in the direct sunlight. If you notice anyone beginning to feel lightheaded or seeming overly tired, take them to a shady spot nearby, remove excess clothing, provide water (NOT ice water), if available apply cool compresses to their head, chest and neck, spray them with cool water and monitor their condition.

Bear in mind that approximately 3:00 pm is estimated to be the hottest time of the day. By 3:00 pm, enough heat has accumulated throughout the day to warm up the ground. If possible, try to avoid being in direct sunlight during the peak heat time of day.

Water Injuries (Drowning, Slips and Falls)

The swimming pool or any body of water for that matter, is a favorite summer pastime for many. But water activities in general pose quite a few risks. Head and neck injuries can occur from diving into shallow water, boating accidents occur in lakes and oceans, and of course drowning is a top concern.

The CDC states that drowning is a leading cause of death for children; but while children are the highest risk, anyone can drown. The following factors make drowning more likely:

  • Not being able to swim
  • Missing or ineffective fences around water
  • Lack of close supervision
  • Not wearing life jackets
  • Drinking alcohol
  • Using drugs and certain prescription medications

Children that are in and around the water should be carefully supervised by parents and/or guardians at all times. Kids that are not strong swimmers should wear U.S. coast-guard approved, well fitted life jackets. Do NOT rely on lifeguards to monitor your children. Be careful and move cautiously on pool decks to avoid accidental slips and falls.

Head Injuries 

In the summertime the risk for head injuries increase because of popular activities such as bicycle riding, skating and skate boarding. Head injuries vary in intensity and can range from a simple cut on the face to a traumatic brain injury. Wearing a helmet can reduce the risk for a head injury by 85%.

Seek emergency medical attention if any of the following symptoms occur after a head injury:

  • Vomiting more than once
  • Altered mental state
  • Increased irritability and fussiness
  • Seizure
  • Bad headache
  • Weakness in an arm or leg

Overuse Injuries

For those of us adults who gleefully jump up from our couches to enjoy summer activities, this inherent “call of the wild” and the urge to suddenly engage in activities can lead to injury. If you’ve been a couch potato in the winter and spring, your risk for developing an overuse injury increases significantly with excessive activity in the summer; this is also known as doing too much, too fast.

These types of injuries can occur with sporting activities such as volleyball, jogging/running, softball, golfing, tennis and hiking. Overuse injuries include shin splints, stress fractures and all manners of tendonitis’ (e.g. Achilles tendonitis, ITB syndrome, tennis elbow, golfers elbow, rotator cuff tendonitis) and the incidences all increase in the summer months.

Overuse injuries can also occur in kids. School sports may be on break, but travel teams and sports camps are popular go-to’s for kids in the summer. Growing kids frequently suffer from Osgood-Schlatter disease in the knee. Tendonitis in the shoulders and elbows tend to be popular with baseball players because of repetitive throwing motions. One of the best ways to minimize overuse injuries in kids is to encourage cross training, by playing an alternate sport in the off season.

Sprains, Strains, Broken Bones, Dislocations

Sprains and strains of the muscles, ligaments and tendons in the back, ankles, knees, wrists and elbows occur regularly in adults during the summer. Sprains can be classified as 1st, 2nd or 3rd degree based on the intensity of damage to the ligaments. 1st degree sprains are common and easily treatable at home with Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation. 2nd and 3rd degree sprains require medical attention.

Strains, more commonly known as “muscle pulls” also come in 1st, 2nd and 3rd degree varieties. Physical therapy can assist with all degrees of sprains and strains and can teach you how to exercise properly to prevent injury.

Accidental broken bones in children also increase during the summer and some of the main culprits are falls from trampolines, monkey bars, bicycles, scooters, skateboards, and dirt bikes/quads. Symptoms of fractures and/or dislocations include:

  • Visibly out of place or misshapen limbs
  • Intense pain
  • Numbness/tingling
  • Broken skin with bone protrusion
  • Loss of motion
  • Swelling, bruising or bleeding

Broken bones or dislocated joints require immediate medical attention.

Remember! Regardless of the injury, the best treatment is prevention. It is worth it to educate yourself about the risks, and take the necessary precautions to protect yourself and your family members this summer. After all, summer should be spent enjoying the outdoors, and not sitting in an ER or Urgent Care waiting room.

Have a fun, safe and injury free summer!

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