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April 2006: Expert Tips for Safe Exercise

01 Apr 2006

Dr. Craig Westin, Director, Weiss Sports Medicine and Orthopedic, is an orthopedic surgeon specializing in arthroscopic knee and shoulder injuries. He has a special clinical interest in sports medicine. Dr. Westin is a physician with the U.S. Figure Skating Team and personal orthopedic surgeon for Olympic silver-medalist, Sasha Cohen.

Expert Tips for Safe Exercise: Prep for Your Springtime Workout Like the Olympians Do

Dr. Craig Westin
Director, Sports Medicine Program
Weiss Memorial Hospital
(312) 444-1145

As a physician with the U.S. Figure Skating Team and personal orthopedic surgeon for Olympic silver-medallist Sasha Cohen, Craig Westin, M.D., knows a thing or two about tuning up your body for springtime sports. We asked Dr. Westin about how he preps Cohen for competition, manages injuries that occur with her demanding training schedule and his suggestions for Chicago’s weekend warriors.

What's the focus of your work with Sasha Cohen?
I speak with Sasha and her coach John Nicks about injuries or problems as they occur. For elite skaters, falls are a less common cause of injury than training errors. I give her advice about training and exercises for injury recovery. Neglected small pains can become big problems. For more serious issues she will come to Chicago.

Does training get more intense for events like the Olympics?
No. We try to keep her physical training regimen balanced and consistent. Both rapid increases in training intensity or coming back too fast from period of rest can lead to injury. It is a challenge to maintain fitness with her extensive international travel.

What tips can you offer Chicago's "Weekend Warriors"?
Treatment principles for Olympic athletes are the same as for weekend warriors: avoid drastic changes in training. If winter has been inactive, athletes need to plan a month of reconditioning. This includes “core” strengthening, aerobic exercise and sport-specific strengthening such as shoulder exercises for throwing athletes. Stretching for maximum motion is vital. A little conditioning will make the sport a lot more fun.

Many athletes want to “play through the pain." Should they?
Almost never. Joint pain causes weakness, not strength. Rather than give up all activity, we recommend substituting activities that do not hurt. For example, a runner may bike or swim during recovery from an injury. If we can keep them in some type of sport, then they have a better sense of well-being.

If you have any questions about sports-related injuries, please call Dr. Craig Westin at (312) 444-1145. For an appointment with Dr. Westin or any of Weiss’ many orthopedic surgeons, call (800) 503-1234.