Connecticut’s Dr. Dan Davis discusses injury prevention and treatment, as well as general health and fitness, to help keep you on the court.
Q: Why is it so important to continue to work out in some form after the basketball season is over?
A: If you don’t work out to stay in shape, you waste all that time and effort you invested in the past year, getting yourself ready for the season and keeping yourself in shape during the season. Now that the basketball season is over, you should definitely focus on doing something to maintain physical fitness throughout the spring, summer and fall. If you stay in shape, your body appreciates it. You become healthier while avoiding certain health risks. And remember, as you get older, the risks become greater because it is simply more difficult to get back into shape as you age.
Q: How hard is it to condition yourself if you don’t officiate basketball in the offseason?
A: The good news is, it only takes a minimal amount of time and energy to maintain your fitness levels until you are ready to resume basketball officiating next winter. For example, there is ample research indicating that just walking 30 minutes a day – especially walking at a brisk pace – provides an outstanding mode of exercise. You get a very good cardiac workout. Plus, it’s a great way to tone your muscles. By contrast, though running and jogging are also good workouts, running more than 5 miles a day does not produce that much of a benefit and in fact may come back to hurt you.
Q: What about exercise routines?
A: As you know, I preach the importance of maintaining your flexibility through stretching and other exercises, because lack of flexibility leads to some of the more common foot and lower leg injuries that I see. So if you worked regularly to maintain your flexibility during the season, it’s important to continue in the offseason, and doing so is not that difficult.
Q: Your thoughts on exercise equipment?
A: You can get a good workout on a stationary bike. One advantage beyond fitness is that you can multi-task while on the bike. You can read, watch TV, listen to music on your iPod, all while on the cycle. You get a good cardiac workout and continue to tone your muscles. It’s another way to prevent you from losing all the phsyical fitness benefits you enjoyed while officiating for a few months during the season. Stationary bikes come in many different “flavors.” Some make your legs work. Others also make your arms work at the same time so you get a good upper and lower body workout. Whichever you choose, remember that proper warm-up and cool-down are both important.
Q: How about treadmills?
A: You can walk, jog, or run on a treadmill and get a workout indoors, without having to worry about the elements. If your body can tolerate it, that’s fine. But, I would point out that it is better for you, biomechanically, to walk, jog or run outside on a stationary surface rather than on the moving surface of a treadmill. Biomechanics in this context refers to how your heels and toes strike the surface you’re walking or running on and how you absorb shock and balance yourself.
On a moving surface, as with a treadmill, your brain tells your body to compensate for that motion, and your feet spread out more on a treadmill than on a sidewalk or track and that can lead to heel pain, shin splints, or knee pain. I also strongly recommend against treadmills for anyone who has diabetes, as diabetics are more prone to calluses and ulcerative breakdowns.
Q: Any other recommendations for offseason conditioning?
A: One suggestion of course is: Don’t have an offseason. You can officiate basketball all year long at AAU tournaments, spring, summer and fall leagues, and so forth. But if you choose not to do basketball, you can officiate other sports and still get a pretty good workout. Lacrosse, for example, provides a nice workout – not as strenuous as soccer, but still pretty good Plus, the learning curve to become a lacrosse official isn’t that bad, and there’s a fairly high demand for officials in that sport. Whether you choose to officiate basketball or any other sport – or to not officiate any sport in the offseason – my overall recommendation is to do whatever you can in terms of exercise to maintain your physical fitness. Exercise makes you healthier physically and mentally. Your metabolic rate stays up so you are less likely to gain weight, and as you know from reading my earlier columns, extra weight puts a lot of extra stress and pressure on your feet. People who workout all year long tend to keep their weight in line without a lot of fluctuation. Plus, your body enjoys a good workout. Exercising produces endorphins, which are a natural opiate, reducing the aches and pains that come from physical exertion and, as a result, you just plain feel better.