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7 tips for avoiding injury as summer normalcy returns

By Lauren Glendenning
Brought to you by Panorama Summit Orthopedics
As Summit County residents and visitors hit the trails this summer, it’s important to be proactive about injury prevention.
As Summit County residents and visitors hit the trails this summer, it’s important to be proactive about injury prevention.
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Walk-in Ortho Care Clinic

Panorama Summit Orthopedics is offering walk-in services for any patient with an orthopedic concern. All patients will be seen by one of the clinic’s orthopedic surgeons.

Hours: Monday through Thursday from 4 to 6 p.m.; and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday.

Location: 265 Tanglewood Lane, Suite E-1, Silverthorne.

For more information, call 970-262-7400 or visit summitorthopanorama.com

Residents and visitors in Summit County face varying levels of risk when they choose their outdoor adventure du jour, but proper planning and conditioning can decrease your chances of summertime sickness or injury.

“At some level, we’re always going to have to pay to play sometimes,” said Dr. Aaron Black, orthopaedic surgeon at Panorama Summit Orthopedics. 

“Part of why these activities are fun is that there’s risk involved.”

Here are some of Panorama Summit Orthopedics’ tips for staying safe and healthy this summer. 

  1. Scope out the conditions

If you’re on a road bike and you’re about to descend a steep hill, you should pay attention to the conditions on the road. Is there gravel all over or is it clear? Just like you wouldn’t blindly head down a ski run without knowing its rating or conditions, you shouldn’t do any summertime outdoor activities without understanding the variables you might face. 

“If you’re doing 40 miles an hour on a gravel course, you’re going to have a bad time,” Dr. Black said. “Make sure the roads have been maintained and there’s no gravel leftover.”

The same can be said for the weather, which can be very erratic in Summit County. If you’re going to be spending time above treeline, it’s wise to get an early start since thunderstorms become a concern in the afternoon. Always look at the weather forecast and plan accordingly, Dr. Black said. 

“You don’t want to be out for a fun mountain bike ride that turns into a muddy hell,” he said. 

  1. Work on your fitness

At the beginning of any recreational season, you often have to work up your fitness level to meet the demands of a particular sport or activity. Unfortunately, the previous season’s fun doesn’t always translate to strong fitness for the next season’s adventures. 

    “A lot of what we do in the summer doesn’t prepare us well for ski season. It prepares us cardiovascularly to go out and ski all day, but not for the specific forces,” Dr. Black said. “Most summer sports are straight lines and lack active side-to-side plyometric motions.”

Given that ski season ended early this year, anyone who hasn’t been active out on the trails since March shouldn’t just jump right into summer activities without doing some conditioning. 

“Four to six weeks is a good window to accomplish some basic fitness,” Dr. Black said. “I’m a fan of things you can do at home such as plyometric and bodyweight exercises that get your muscles woken up and get you into the zone.”

  1. Stay within your ability level

Dr. Black recommends tackling bite-sized goals. If it’s your first day on a mountain bike or a road bike in a while, don’t expect to set a personal record or conquer the biggest and baddest trails. 

“Be honest with yourself about your conditioning,” he said. “Make sure you set yourself up for success. The muscles that dynamically support your static structure get tired, change lengths, etc. The better strength and endurance you have going into it, the better you’ll protect the structures.”

Dr. Black has been seeing a lot of electric bikes, or e-bikes, on the trails lately which assist riders during ascents. These e-bikes can get people into trouble if they’re not prepared. 

“If you run out of juice, you can get stuck,” Dr. Black said. “Make sure you understand the range and ability of a bike like that.”

  1. Have the right gear

From clothing to shoes to properly fitted gear and equipment, hitting the trails or the water without the right stuff can quickly make a fun day turn miserable. 

At altitude, the sun’s ultraviolet radiation is stronger and more dangerous, so sunscreen is essential. And due to the crazy weather in Summit County, Dr. Black recommends wearing synthetic clothes rather than cotton, which gets uncomfortably, and sometimes dangerously, cold and wet from sweat or rain. Always bring layers for temperature swings that are very common at altitude. 

If you’re running, make sure you’re not overusing your shoes and you’re replacing them after the recommended mileage for your specific shoe. Some brands recommend replacing shoes every 450 to 500 miles. 

Running in worn-out shoes can increase the risk of injuries to the feet, legs and pelvis. 

If you’re into road cycling or mountain biking, make sure you have a good bike fit, which minimizes the risk of overuse injuries. 

“Make sure your pedals and saddle are in the right position, which can help avoid knee pain,” Dr. Black said. “And make sure your reach is correct on road bike — this minimizes lower back pain.” 

It’s also easy to get dehydrated above 9,000 feet, so make sure to bring along enough water. Dr. Black carries a LifeStraw with him on long trail runs or bike rides, allowing him to filter stream water to drink if he runs out of drinking water.  

  1. Keep a safe distance

Dr. Black said Summit County residents have been doing a great job out on the trails in terms of maintaining social distancing. It helps that the nature of recreating in the mountains tends to include wide-open spaces and a natural ability to stay away from lots of people. 

In order to continue to social distance while you recreate outside, do things such as driving separately to a trailhead, and use face coverings outdoors when you can’t maintain more than six feet of distance from someone. (Face coverings are required in Summit County when visiting any indoor business.)

“You can still go outside and do fun things and not put other people at risk,” Dr. Black said. 

  1. Know when to call it a day

It’s common to see injuries at the Panorama Summit Orthopedics office at the end of the day. That’s because many people ignore their body’s signals that fatigue is setting in. Proper fitness and route selection can help avoid a scenario in which you’re forced to keep pushing even though your body is ready to quit. 

  1. Warm-up, stretch and cool-down

Warming up is essential before any activity, especially for those who are visiting from lower altitudes. People have a desire to push for the same intensity as what they do at sea level, but you can’t sustain that up here. 

“Warming up is what will continue to make it fun and help avoid exacerbation,” Dr. Black said. “You should spend enough time at low speed and exertion level, where you should still be able to talk, before ramping up — this is especially important for people with pulmonary issues such as exercise-induced asthma.”


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