Four Dangerous Summer Activities For Your Joints


It’s an American tradition: as soon as the weather gets warm, Americans head for the ball diamond. Baseball is still popular with kids, but softball is still a wildly popular sports with adults, partially because it has a reputation of being a relatively easy sport to play. However, softball can still be hard on joints – especially shoulders and elbows.

Pitchers, for example, can cause long-term damage by repeating the same throwing motions over and over throughout their careers. Even though they’re not subjected to the strain of big league curve balls or sliders, softball shoulders commonly succumb to rotator cuff injuries, in which the tendons surrounding the shoulder joint are inflamed or torn.

The most common elbow injuries from softball tend to be tennis elbow, in which tendons are injured from repetitive motion, and bursitis, a common issue caused by the cushion between the skin and bone becoming inflamed.

Part of softball’s appeal is the fact that it can be played until participants are in their fifties or even sixties. However, this also contributes to the number of repetitive stress injuries that can result from many years of the same activities being performed over and over.

Suggested local doctor: Dr. Joff Thompson at Valley Bone & Joint Clinic has seen almost every kind of shoulder injury that exists. Your doctor can refer you to Dr. Thompson.

Water Sports

Every summer, millions of lake-goers pull on their bathing suits and head for the water. While fishing may not cause too many joint issues (other than those resulting from prolonged inactivity), those who spend their weekends behind a speedboat are at risk for several joint-related problems.

Water skiers, in particular, put incredible strain on their ankles. Even though modern boots have reduced the number of catastrophic injuries, emergency rooms still see their fair share of sprained ankles, ruptured Achilles tendons and even fractures. Some injuries need the attention of a surgeon, while others do not, but any ankle injury generally takes a good long time to heal completely.

Those who choose to tube behind a boat are not immune to injuries either, as water can be surprisingly unforgiving at high speeds, and collisions with other equipment (and other tubers) can cause fracture-inducing impacts. Joints simply were not made with those types of collisions in mind.

Suggested local doctor: Dr. John Miller is Valley Bone & Joint Clinic’s foot and ankle expert. Your doctor can give you a referral.


Summer is marathon season, but even if you’re a more casual runner you need to care for your joints in order to go the extra mile. Hips, in particular, cause problems for those who run regularly.

Bursas are fluid sacs that lubricate the movement around joints, and for runners, inflamed bursas (bursitis) can cause significant discomfort. For most, this pain goes away after a period of rest, but for others, it can become chronic. Either way, this hip ailment can slow down even the most committed runner.

A labral tear in the hip is an even more serous problem. The labrum is the cartilage around the ball of the femur, and for runners with small imperfections in their hip joints, it can become damaged over time. The result is a painful injury that often requires surgery.

Suggested local doctor: Dr. Edward Adams at Valley Bone & Joint Clinic specializes in sport injuries, and serious runners trust him to get them back on course. Tell your doctor you’d like Dr. Adams to look at your injury.


For a sport that includes a good bit of leisurely walking, golf can be surprisingly hard on one’s joints. Like softball, golfers tend to play into their golden years, and this increases the number of injuries simply due to wear and tear. However, duffers of any age can suffer from a joint injury on the links, especially if their technique leaves something to be desired.

Aside from injuries to shoulders and wrists resulting from the repetitive action of a golf swing, the knees take more punishment on the golf course than you might think. A drive, for example, results in a great deal of torque on the knee joint. This can lead to degeneration of the joint’s cartilage as well as arthritis, two ailments than can definitely add a few strokes to your handicap.

Unfortunately, lower back problems can also result from the torque created by a golf swing. Over time, the action of the downswing can wear down the discs in one’s spine as it simultaneously puts tremendous stress on the muscles in the back. Anyone who has back problems – especially disc problems – can tell you that they can easily end a golfer’s time in the tee box permanently.

Suggested local doctor: Dr. David Schall at Valley Bone & Joint Clinic specializes in both knees and hips, making him a great choice for a serious golf injury that requires an expert surgeon. Your doctor can refer you to Dr. Schall.

Get Ready For The Action

Don’t let the potential for injury discourage you from staying active this summer. There are a few easy steps you can take to get your body ready for the action, making it less prone to injuries.

Warm Up And Stretch

Spend some time before the event preparing your body for activity. Look up the best stretches for the sport you are about to engage in. Do a little exercise before your exercise to help ensure that your body isn’t shocked by the sudden exertion.

Pay Attention To The Pain

While you can probably play through some level of pain, you are feeling discomfort for a reason. Unless you are a professional athlete, it might be best to listen to the warning signs you are getting from your body and take some time to rest.

Communicate With Your Doctor

He or she should be part of your exercise and activity plan. Tell your doctor how things are going and how your body feels. If you’re training for a big race, ask him or her for some advice on doing it properly.

If you’ve suffered a joint injury or a fractured bone, have your doctor refer you to Valley Bone & Joint Clinic in Grand Forks. Not only are the doctors and surgeons there experienced and well-regarded, they’re local folks who enjoy the same outdoor activities that you do in the summer. Along with the doctors you’ve seen in this story, Valley Bone & Joint Clinic’s team also includes Dr. Robert Clayburgh, the area’s preeminent hand surgeon; Dr. John Eickman, specializing in neurosurgery; Dr. Michael Kruger, the team’s sports medicine expert; and Dr. Hope Argenziano, a rheumatologist who serves patients across eastern North Dakota and western Minnesota.