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Playing Hoopfest? Play it safe

From injury prevention to hydration, there are many factors to consider

Basketball is a terrific form of exercise and Hoopfest is a fantastic display of Spokane’s community spirit. I especially like to watch the youngest kids play as their families and friends cheer them on.

Watch for four things at Hoopfest this year: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, injuries, too much sun, and dehydration. We would all like to meet Kareem, but the other three we need to do our best to avoid.

Ankle sprains, knee injuries, bruises, concussions, cuts, fractures, eye injuries, tooth injuries, and tendonitis are unfortunately common. Dehydration and heat exhaustion are common even among the fans.

So I would like to give a few tips to athletes and fans for enjoying Hoopfest and staying safe.

Of course all that training and conditioning you have been doing to get ready for Hoopfest is the most important thing you can do to protect yourself from injury while on the court. Here are a few other things you can do to prevent getting hurt.

Much of this advice also applies to other sports that we do during the summer months – like running, tennis, soccer and rugby.

•Warm up and stretch out. Jog or walk for at least five minutes, then when you stretch, hold each stretch for 30 seconds.

•Tape up or wear a brace on vulnerable joints, especially joints that have been injured before. You can keep athletic tape from ripping out hair when removing it by wrapping with sports underwrap first and then tape up over it.

•Wear a mouth guard to protect those pearly whites. You can get a boil-and-bite mouth guard at many sporting goods stores.

•Use safety glasses or glass guards and eyewear retainers if you wear glasses.

•Wear shoes meant for your sport that fit snugly, offer support, and are non-skid. Pick shoes by how well they fit and how much support they provide, not by how “cool” they look.

Depending on how often you practice and play, you may need to replace shoes as often as once a month. Consider wearing a separately purchased pair of insoles like runners use.

•Bring extra socks and change out of wet, sweaty socks frequently. If your team is lucky enough to play all day, you may need several pairs.

•Do not wear jewelry or clothing with pockets. Earrings can get ripped out and fingers can get caught on clothing and pulled out of joint.

•Pay attention to where other players are to avoid collisions.

•Spit your gum into the trash before you step onto the court.

•Get off the court if you are injured. Playing through the pain is a good way to end up with a more serious injury, or even a permanent one.

•Practice how to fall. Try to not tense up and stretch out your arms to break your fall; relax as much as you can and roll with it.

Last year after Hoopfest, a young man limped into my office on Monday. He had “played through the pain” toward the end of the tournament and was now paying for it. His ankle was swollen, his feet hurt, and he was sunburned.

Most ankle sprains can improve with RICE treatment: Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation. Stay off of the injury, ice it for 15 minutes two to three times a day, wrap the injury, and keep it elevated as much as possible.

My patient made his injury much worse by continuing to play. It did not require surgery, but he did need several weeks of physical therapy and anti-inflammatories. Worse yet, he could not play basketball for several months.

If he had let his team’s alternate play, he might have improved after a few days of RICE treatment.

Whether you are competing or cheering from the sidelines this weekend, keep following the three S’s of sun safety I talked about two weeks ago: Slip on a shirt, slop on some sunscreen, and slap on a hat.

Apply your sunscreen at least 30 minutes before going outside and reapply according to the directions on the bottle. Get yourself indoors once in a while or find a spot in the shade to take a break from the sun and the heat. Keep those water bottles with you and keep drinking.

And best of luck to everyone!

Dr. Alisa Hideg’s column appears every other Tuesday in the Today section. Send your questions and comments to