Jamie Forzato, wtop.com
WASHINGTON - Thanksgiving is the favorite time of year for many people, with its heaps of food, good family conversation and of course -- the annual backyard football game.
But the fun can turn into serious pain for those who aren't careful.
Dr. Zohair Alam, an orthopedic surgeon at The Joint Replacement Center at Washington Adventist Hospital, says he treats several injuries a week from people "just doing innocent, fun things over the weekend or holidays."
And of course, the Turkey Bowl -- the mother of all competitive holiday events -- can do some major physical damage. But Alam says many don't seek help until the following week.
"People get hurt and they don't realize how severe it is, and they think that a day or two of rest might make it get better," he says, noting that the areas of the body most likely to be injured are the knees, ankles, shoulders, wrists and hands. "But then as things don't get better, that's when they go to the emergency room -- a week or so later."
So what's his top tip to avoid the hospital this holiday season? Common sense.
"Know your limits," Alam says. "As we all get older, our ligaments and tendons get stiff, less flexible, and they're more prone to injury."
Here's the rest of his list:
- Stretch before and after the game.
- Take it easy -- it's all in good fun.
- Check out the playing surface. Wet weather will make the leaves and grass slippery.
- Make sure your family and friends can be seen by traffic and pedestrians.
- Wear appropriate clothing. Spikes could give you traction when playing in the mud, but they could also hurt other players.
Those who feel younger than they are may be particularly susceptible to injury. Alam says folks over 35 "may be playing with what would be considered normal intensity. But because the body may not be as flexible as it used to be, even a normal intensity type of activity can lead to these injuries."
For those who just can't tame the football star inside themselves and end up feeling the pain later, Alam suggests taking anti-inflammatory medication, ice for swelling and heat for tightness.
"Just remember it's the holiday season," he says. "We want to be able to share the time with family and friends and have fun, so just have common sense and that will keep everyone safe."
Follow WTOP on Twitter.
(Copyright 2011 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)