By Annette “Dr Z” Zaharoff, M.D.
Last month, the world’s No. 1 golfer, Dustin Johnson, had to withdraw from the Masters on the eve of the tournament after suffering a back injury. Johnson had just won three tournaments in a row and was the favorite to win his second major championship.
He didn’t aggravate it in a practice round or the driving range; he slipped and fell on the stairs of his rental home.
Recently, the young daughter of a friend twisted her ankle and suffered a moderate sprain that required her to wear a brace and sit out PE classes for a couple of weeks. She had just taken part in a grueling, daylong karate training class in preparing for her black belt test, but that is not how she twisted her ankle. She was coming down the stairs before school one morning and planted her foot poorly on the landing.
Some might call accidents like this a twist of fate, but it’s more accurate to call them a twist of distraction. I practice sports medicine and treat many athletes at the recreational, amateur, college and pro level who injury themselves in the course of training or competitive play. But most incidents involving a twisted ankle, back sprain, a kitchen knife cut to the hand and even neck injuries can be linked to simply being distracted and not paying attention to surroundings.
Our smart phones are a major culprit. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, more than 1,150 people went to hospital emergency rooms in 2014 for injuries caused when walking while talking or texting on their cell phones. That is four times the number of injuries reported in 2007.
But increased stress also greatly increases the likelihood of injury. Within six months of divorce, men have three times as many car collisions versus a control group, according to several actuarial studies.
Practicing mindfulness, or the act of being present and focusing on what you are doing, is a good advice that can keep you out of the emergency room or urgent care. Here are five ways you can stay present and focused, and hopefully avoid that nasty twist of distraction:
1. Take a micro-break – The simple act of standing up from your desk at work and stretching can help you to really hone in on what you are doing. Pause, take a deep breath and exhale.
2. Put away the cell phone – It’s already illegal to text and drive, but it should be common-sense to not text and walk. Whatever message you want to return can wait until you get to your destination on foot.
3. Smell the roses – When was the last time you took a pause to smell your morning cup of coffee? Or to notice the warmth of the sun on your skin, the color of the sky or the shape of the horizon? Pausing to notice your surroundings is a way to make sure you are present before you go back to tackling that report for the boss.
4. Kick the habit – Whenever you notice you are on auto pilot in performing a task, stop. Whenever something becomes a habit, you are not being mindful and you stop paying attention to the task. Pour your coffee with the other hand. Put your shoes on starting with the “other” foot first. Plan to take a different route to work one day a week. These little things can help you regain your focus.
5. Clean up your space: Leaving shoes or boxes on the floor is just an invitation to trip and hurt yourself, so make sure to pick up those loose items. Even cleaning up your desk at work can help you to get in a good frame of mind for feeling organized and productive. It’s one less thing to worry about, which is one less distraction to have.
The stress we face in our daily lives will only be exacerbated if we wind up with a broken ankle or pinched nerve. Take some time to ask yourself if you are truly present throughout the day, and you will improve your chances of getting through the day without injury.
Dr. Annette “Dr. Z” Zaharoff heads the Non-Surgical Center of Texas, focusing on non-surgical treatments to relieve pain and repair injuries. A former professional tennis player who competed on the WTA circuit, Dr. Zaharoff has been utilizing regenerative injection treatments including Stem Cell Therapy, PRP Injection Therapy and Prolotherapy for more than a decade. Learn more about her at www.drzmd.com. You can follow her on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/DrZaharoff.