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How to avoid Turkey Bowl injuries this Thanksgiving

MAYWOOD, Ill. – Every year around this time, Loyola University Medical Center Sports Medicine surgeon Dr. Pietro Tonino sees a spike in sprains, contusions, broken bones and other injuries suffered in Thanksgiving pickup football games.
Many of these injuries are easily preventable, Tonino said. He offers the following tips to reduce the risk of Turkey Bowl injuries:

Touch, not tackle. Tackle football greatly increases the injury risk. Flag football reduces it. The safest option is touch football.

Warm up and stretch. You’re more likely to suffer injuries if your muscles are cold. Before kickoff, warm up by jogging, running in place, doing jumping jacks, etc., for a few minutes. Then slowly and gently stretch, holding each stretch for 30 seconds.

Don’t wear cleats. When you wear cleats, there’s a risk that your foot will be stuck in one position while the rest of your body is moving in a different direction, leading to injury. Leave cleats to professional and competitive players. Wear gym shoes instead.

But do wear mouth guards. They cost only a few dollars and can save hundreds of dollars in dental bills if you get smashed in the mouth.

And loose-fitting clothes. For example, wear sweats instead of jeans. This will make you more flexible to reduce the injury risk.

Act your age. If you’re 40, don’t try to play like you’re still 20. And if you’re way out of shape, don’t play at all.

Don’t drink. Avoid alcohol both before and during the Turkey Bowl.

Don’t play hurt. If you get hurt on a play, do not return to action until symptoms are completely gone. You should have no pain, no swelling, full range of motion and normal strength.

Cool down and stretch. At the end of the Turkey Bowl, don’t forget to stretch. This will help reduce muscle soreness the next day.

“Playing in a Turkey Bowl is a great way to get some exercise and burn off those pumpkin pie calories,” Tonino said. “But make sure you play smart to stay safe."

Tonino is program director of Sports Medicine and a professor in the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery and Rehabilitation at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine.

Loyola University Health System (LUHS) is a member of Trinity Health. Based in the western suburbs of Chicago, LUHS is a quaternary care system with a 61-acre main medical center campus, the 36-acre Gottlieb Memorial Hospital campus and more than 30 primary and specialty care facilities in Cook, Will and DuPage counties. The medical center campus is conveniently located in Maywood, 13 miles west of the Chicago Loop and 8 miles east of Oak Brook, Ill. The heart of the medical center campus is a 559-licensed-bed hospital that houses a Level 1 Trauma Center, a Burn Center and the Ronald McDonald® Children's Hospital of Loyola University Medical Center. Also on campus are the Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center, Loyola Outpatient Center, Center for Heart & Vascular Medicine and Loyola Oral Health Center as well as the LUC Stritch School of Medicine, the LUC Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing and the Loyola Center for Fitness. Loyola's Gottlieb campus in Melrose Park includes the 255-licensed-bed community hospital, the Professional Office Building housing 150 private practice clinics, the Adult Day Care, the Gottlieb Center for Fitness, Loyola Center for Metabolic Surgery and Bariatric Care and the Loyola Cancer Care & Research at the Marjorie G. Weinberg Cancer Center at Melrose Park.

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