Re-Emerging Safely This Summer

Nicole Montero Lopez, MDAs outdoor activities increase, Nicole Montero Lopez, MD, orthopedic surgeon, offers tips to help avoid common orthopedic injuries.

After several months practicing social distancing amid the COVID-19 health pandemic, you are likely ready to head outdoors and enjoy the warm summer weather. While there are many health benefits to being outside, increased activity in the summer months can also lead to an increased risk of orthopedic injuries.

Nicole Montero Lopez, MD, orthopedic surgeon at Clara Maass Medical Center and an RWJBarnabas Medical Group provider, offers tips on how you can prevent strains, sprains and breaks this summer.

Running and Hiking
Although running is an excellence way to exercise, novice and experienced runners alike can damage their joints.

“Running has a high rate of injury,” says Dr. Montero Lopez. “If you’re new to running, it’s important to pace yourself. Start with a short distance and work your way up over time.”

Similarly, novice hikers ready to hit the trails this summer should aim to begin with an easy to moderate level of difficulty.

“Muscle strains and sprains are both common hiking injuries,” Dr. Montero Lopez says. “However, the risk of broken bones increases with more rigorous hikes that include changes in elevation or rough terrain.”

While most muscle strains and sprains require rest and hot and cold therapies, the risk of broken ankles, hands and wrists can be avoided by not only choosing the right trail, but also choosing the right footwear.

“Proper footwear is essential when doing any outdoor activity, including hiking. Hiking boots can help support your ankle and provide traction to avoid slipping and falling when moving along the trail.”

On the Water
Diving is the fifth-leading cause of spinal cord injuries among men, According to the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center.

“Always use caution when diving, whether it’s in a swimming pool or from a cliff at a local watering hole. Diving into the ocean also presents a risk as waves can easily mask shallower depths and sandbars” says Dr. Montero Lopez. “If you aren’t sure of the depth of the water or you can’t see the bottom, don’t dive at all.”

Additionally, high-speed water sports such as jet skiing and water skiing can put people at risk of head injuries, bone fractures and joint injuries.

“Hitting the water at a high rate of speed can be more painful—and dangerous— than some people realize,” Dr. Montero Lopez says. “Anyone suffering from a water related injury should be taken to the Emergency Department to check for shock, neck trauma, concussion or spine injuries.”

Keeping Kids Safe
Just as adults are eager to head outdoors, children are too. Parents should be proactive about identifying the signs of an injury and use caution when it involves common culprits.

“Trampolines, bicycles and climbing equipment at the playground are often the sources of summer injuries in children,” says Dr. Montero Lopez. “While cuts and bruises may be the most commonly seen, we do also see hand and limb fractures as a result of falls.”

Helmets should be worn every time when bike riding, regardless of the length of the ride. Parents should also inspect playground equipment to ensure it is well-maintained and has soft material on the ground in the event of falls. In the case of trampolines, parents should ensure they are equipped with safety nets and ensure only one child is jumping at a time.

“If there is an excessive amount of pain and swelling with your child’s injury, it could be a fracture. If you think there is a fracture or a broken bone, you should go straight to the Emergency Department. Otherwise, your primary care doctor can evaluate the injury to see if an X-Ray or a referral to an orthopedic specialist is needed,” says Montero Lopez.

To find an orthopedic provider near you, visit rwjbh.org/medicalgroup or call 888-724-7123.