Squash players: Be sure to stretch


I have a weekly squash game on Saturdays. As I get older, I notice I'm more sore than I used to be afterward and I'm getting more minor injuries. What can I do to avoid this?

We asked Meadow Mill Athletic Club owner Nancy Cushman for advice.

"What I tell people is that stretching before and after your match is most important," says Cushman. (Jog or jump rope for five to 10 minutes before stretching to avoid pulling a muscle.)

Between workouts, Cushman suggests adding cross training and weight training to your routine. The cardiovascular and muscular benefits will carry over into your squash game. Cushman says Pilates is a great complement to playing squash. Not only is Pilates good for flexibility, it strengthens core muscles like the lower back, abdominals and legs, essential "squash muscles."

Whenever I get a muscle pull, I never know whether to put hot or cold on it. Is there a rule of thumb?

Ah, the age-old question: heat vs. ice. Sports-medicine experts disagree, but the National Institutes of Health (www.nih.gov) advises that cold is preferred in the first 48-72 hours.

For strains (injury to a muscle or tendon) and sprains (injury to a ligament), the initial goal is to reduce pain and swelling. Apply ice for 20 minutes, four to eight times a day. Also, start taking an anti-inflammatory, like aspirin or ibuprofen, right away to lessen pain and inflammation.

After a few days, you can begin alternating your ice treatments with heat treatments to start loosening the muscle. As long as it isn't painful, gently stretch the muscle a few times daily. You will shave days off your recovery time.

Do you have a fitness question? Write to Fitness, The Baltimore Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore, MD 21278. You can also fax questions to 410-783-2519 or e-mail fitness@baltsun.com.

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