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Staying safe in summer heat

GRAND FORKS AIR FORCE BASE, N.D. - The warm rays of sunshine, the smell of fresh-cut grass, and summer breezes can send people running for the great outdoors here in North Dakota faster than yelling "fire" in a crowded movie theater. Thoughts of ...

GRAND FORKS AIR FORCE BASE, N.D. - The warm rays of sunshine, the smell of fresh-cut grass, and summer breezes can send people running for the great outdoors here in North Dakota faster than yelling "fire" in a crowded movie theater. Thoughts of softball, in-line skating, bicycling, street hockey or any number of summer outdoor activities often have an "intoxicating" effect on the ability to reason and rationalize.

Those suffering from months of self-imposed "cabin fever" suddenly jump right into their more active summertime persona without adequate preparation, conditioning or protective equipment. Torn knee ligaments, broken bones, scrapes and abrasions, lacerations and bruises end up being the all-too-common result. By taking a short pause before scrambling for the door, you can greatly minimize your potential for injury.

First, take an honest look at yourself. Has yester-year's deeply tanned and sculpted body turned pale white and soft over time? Have the "oh-crud-it's-below-zero-again" munchies taken their toll on your mid-section over the winter? Most of us aren't in as good a shape as we would like, and even if we are, re-energizing dormant muscle systems and talents takes time.

No one in their right mind would return from a six month layoff over the winter, walk outside and start firing fastballs like they were Nolan Ryan in his prime. To do so invites the proverbial torn arm muscles and ligaments. Instead, steadily and gradually rebuild your throwing arm to the point where you can throw as hard and often as possible. This is just a good, common sense approach to reconditioning the body for summertime activities and can be applied to all muscle and joint groups; the legs for running, upper body for swimming, the knees and ankles for in-line skating and so on.

Second, be honest with yourself. A friendly pickup game of basketball or softball at a picnic can turn ugly and result in a trip to the hospital. Everyone is not a Major League Baseball player or first-round NBA draft pick and therefore won't be able to perform like one. Know your limits, stay within them, and avoid the "I'll show them what I can do" mentality.

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Lastly, believe it or not, your equipment does wear out and break down over time. Perform a quick inspection of your bike, helmet, bat and glove running shoes and replace or repair any broken, damaged, worn out or just plain unserviceable equipment. The potential pain and suffering from a mishap is not worth the few bucks it may cost to replace a cracked bike helmet or pair of blown-out shoes.

Summer is a great season for outdoor activities, but do a little preparation to avoid the pitfalls of pain.

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