Athletic pursuits

Dr. Stephanie H. Hsu is an orthopedic surgeon at Northside Cherokee Orthopedics and Sports Medicine. An avid tennis player, Dr. Hsu has a unique understanding about how exercise and athletics can enhance life. She also understands the best approaches for staying healthy and injury-free while pursuing one’s passion for a sport.

Dr. Hsu graciously allowed us to ask her some questions about the benefits of being an athlete and the best techniques for avoiding sports injury.

AJC: From your personal perspective, how does being an athlete enhance your work life physically and mentally?

Dr. Hsu: Playing sports or exercising is awesome. It is a great stress relief for me, and a fun and different challenge. It keeps me healthy, and I really enjoy the teammate friends that I play with. It helps me to be a better physician to understand my patients, their motivations and challenges in participating in athletics.

Being involved in different sports over the years has taught me a lot of lessons that I can apply to patient care, and how I interact with my patients. It helps me understand the hurdles of just getting started and committing to a program. (I learned) how an injury and rehab affects your day-to-day, that season, or your personal goals. Goals like a high school athlete getting scouted for college, an adult tennis player just getting back to help their team out for the season, or even my older patients who golf or walk socially to stay active and maintain their friendships.

Sometimes it’s just a particular day that my patient’s knee hurts from running, and my shoulder hurts from tennis, and we understand how the other one feels.

AJC: For the athletes among our readers, what are your best tips for avoiding injury?

Dr. Hsu: Generally, for avoiding injury, being prepared with the right gear/equipment and warming up is essential. Especially as adults, we don’t tend to play sports and run and play every day like we did as kids. There are definitely some special exercises that can be of benefit, depending on what sport you are participating in such as hip, hamstring, and calf stretches for runners or back/shoulder/arm stretches for tennis, volleyball, or softball players. Warming up in general is helpful, just a light jog or moving to get the blood flowing.

AJC: We live in the South, so what do you recommend people do to safely exercise outdoors in our hot summers?

Dr. Hsu: Absolutely be prepared. Heat acclimatization is a big preventative factor. Humidity and heat limit the body’s ability to evaporate sweat, therefore the risk of heat illness increases greatly. Georgia + Hot + Humid = High Risk. Smart and easy things to do are to start hydrating early and stay hydrated. It’s wise to drink at least 16-20 ounces of fluid 1-2 hours before outdoor activities, but then also staying hydrated with 6-12 ounces of fluid every 15 minutes while outside. Make sure to replace what you have lost after your cool down. This sounds like a lot to drink, but remember, you don’t feel thirsty until you are already dehydrated. So, PRE, DURING, and POST hydration are key.

Water and sports drinks for their electrolytes are smart choices but caffeinated or high sugar fruit juices can increase dehydration or cause stomach cramps.

Heat illness doesn’t always progress in a logical order, so if any signs are there, including excessive fatigue, nausea, no more sweating, paleness and shakiness, or even dizziness occur, get out of the sun and cool down and get hydrated immediately to prevent further injury.

AJC: For our not so active readers, what is your advice for getting into a sport? What are the most difficult hurdles to get over?

Dr. Hsu: Everyone is different, so I think taking into consideration what you enjoy and how you usually do things is quite helpful when getting started. Often, it helps to have some teammates to get going with you, motivate you, and keep you going. But also, some people also enjoy the quiet time, the ability to clear their head and think freely while they exercise. Sometimes I love to run on my own, but other times, I wouldn’t make it half a mile or even put my shoes on if it wasn’t for my friends!

If you are nervous about trying out a new sport, don’t be afraid to explore things like a local running group, tennis drills, or group golf lessons. You’ll be surprised at how many varying levels of skill, ability, or experience there might be, and sometimes, those that have been doing this the longest may just be your biggest supporter to get started!

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