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May 12, 2009

Prepare yourself for the game

Posted: 09:56 AM ET

Fitness, friends, fun: All are great reasons to play organized sports. No matter the intensity of the sport, there are a couple of things you should do prior to each game to get your body ready.

Kickball

Forrest Pecha, Certified Athletic Trainer with Emory Sports Medicine, offers these tips to would-be athletes who want to leave behind their couch-potato status.

1) Warm it up. Before beginning any type of exercise, getting the circulation going is a must. Take a brisk walk or a light jog for 6-10 minutes. Once the muscles are warm, they have more pliability.

2) Stretch it out. After your body is warmed up, a proper stretching routine for most sports includes the quads, hamstrings, glutes, and calves. Depending on the activity, you may also want to include trunk and lower back stretches.

The Mayo Clinic offers more stretching how-to’s.

And, consider:

3) Soreness, sprains & strains. When you first become active, you're putting some otherwise unused muscles to work. For instance, in the game of adult kickball, simply kicking the ball and sprinting to first base may be enough to cause soreness if your body's not used to it. The soreness usually appears a day or two after the workout, and lasts about 48 hours.

If you fall, twist something, or have other trauma, you may experience a sprain or a strain. More than likely, says Pecha, you’ll know it when it happens. If the swelling or pain lasts 3 days or more, seek medical attention.

Pecha stresses that any increase in activity level brings with it a risk of injury, but that shouldn't stop you from getting in the game. However, if you're older than 40 or if you haven't been active in the past year, he recommends first seeing a doctor.

Health Minute airs daily on HLN from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. ET weekdays

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