Sports Medicine During the Pandemic


Man in mask stretching

Pandemic stress and added free time during quarantine has left many feeling challenged to reinvigorate their exercise routines. Dr. Brian Sennett, Chief of Sports Medicine at Penn Orthopaedics, outlines how to stay fit amid COVID-19 and the resources available to patients who may need treatment.

Stick to a Routine

Diet, exercise and a consistent sleep schedule provide much needed structure and a sense of control during a time of great uncertainty. If you work from home, it can be tempting to over-eat or over-snack throughout the day. To keep a handle on your diet, try packing a breakfast and/or lunch as if you were going to work normally. Keeping those foods physically separated could help you to make a mental distinction between foods for the work day and foods for after hours, providing more structure and balance.

While many may stick to a regular diet and exercise regimen, sleep can often fall by the wayside. But Dr. Sennett advises that sleep may be most important of the three. "We think of sleep as regenerative, as getting us back into shape and allowing our muscles to recover. [It improves] our mental health during the day, and [helps us] deal with problems better," he says. Try setting a bedtime and sticking to it—just as you would do for a child.

Exercise Consistently

Although many are feeling inspired to try out new workout routines amid the pandemic, it might be best to stick to what you know. Dr. Sennett advises, "If you have never run, this is not the time to be thinking about starting to run. One old adage that we say in the office is, 'You burn the same amount of calories when you walk a mile or run a mile.'"

If you do want to ramp up your routine a bit, start with what is familiar to you and do what feels best for your body. Dr. Sennett notes that the rule of thumb is to "never increase more than 10 percent per week." For example, walk a little farther each week to build up your endurance or walk a little faster to build speed, but don't do both at the same time.

Listen to your body

Experiencing muscle soreness after exercise is normal and usually subsides after a few days. Soreness of joints, on the other hand, is a bit more concerning. If you feel any joint soreness, back off the exercise and get some rest. "The old rule of thumb is RICE: rest, ice, compression and elevation," Dr. Sennett notes. If soreness doesn't subside after a week, reach out to your provider to set up a telemedicine or in-person visit.

Treatment Options During the Pandemic

Before visiting the hospital to get help, Dr. Sennett suggests first calling your local practice location. "We may have a provider who could get on the phone with you to talk through some of your issues. We may have you come into our office for an in-person visit, so you're not actually coming in to a hospital or emergency room."

One popular option available at Penn Orthopaedics is telemedicine. These appointments are only about 15-20 minutes and are just like a regular visit in the office—only virtual. "We have a very interactive visit and accomplish all we would typically accomplish face-to-face. We order studies, prescribe physical therapy, and as soon as the visit is over, patients are right back to their lives. So what once may have taken a couple hours out of their day, they're now having taken care of in 20 minutes," Dr. Sennett says.

Although telemedicine is available, there are some instances when an in-person visit is necessary for patients. These include:

  • Patients who need surgery
  • Patients whose diagnosis can't be determined virtually
  • Patients who need an injection, cast or other treatment that is beyond the scope of telemedicine

Regardless of the Penn Medicine facility you visit, we are taking every possible precaution to build a safe environment for our patients and our employees. Each provider wears a mask, goggles, shield and gloves and has his or her temperature checked at the beginning of every shift. We're also limiting the number of patients visiting our offices at any given time, lessening the number of people in the waiting room and shortening overall wait times.

So if you need to be evaluated in person, Dr. Sennett emphasizes that you can feel confident that you will receive care in the safest environment possible. "We will get that diagnosis established for you. We'll come up with a treatment plan and make you feel good about the care you're getting."

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Get pain management and fitness tips from our orthopaedic doctors, stay up-to-date on the latest advancements in the orthopaedics field, and hear from patients like you, who achieved what once seemed impossible. 

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