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The Twisted Ankles of Thanksgiving

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The Twisted Ankles of Thanksgiving

The Twisted Ankles of Thanksgiving

The Twisted Ankles of Thanksgiving

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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As Thanksgiving approaches, many people are reaching for an old sweatshirt and faded jeans in preparation for backyard football. After years of cleaning up the post-holiday wreckage, physical therapist Peter Schultz reveals how to avoid becoming a hobbled weekend warrior.


Only three days to get ready for Thanksgiving, and I'm not just talking about the food. In three days, many of us will be forced to play a friendly game of touch football. Really, it's just friendly. It's non-competitive - while the turkey cooks. And if you're like me, it's about the only physical activity you will do all year, and this creates a problem.

Here's a cautionary tale for all of you out there. The first time I met my wife's in-laws…



SMITH: …was at Thanksgiving. I dress up, put on a nice loafers, I'm looking good, and they then tell me we're going to be playing football on the hard top, right on the street outside their house.

Not only did I miss every pass, but I twisted my ankle.

STEWART: Oh, my god.

SMITH: I hobbled off the field. Luckily, they still allowed me to marry their daughter. And not everyone, though, has a happy ending. And joining us to talk about this weekend-warrior syndrome the Thanksgiving edition and how to avoid it is Peter Schultz. He's a physical therapist at Dynamic Sports Physical Therapy in Manhattan.

Hey, Peter.

Mr. PETER SCHULTZ (Physical Therapist, Dynamic Sports Physical Therapy): Good morning. Good morning, Robert. How are you?

SMITH: I'm doing great. So paint a picture for us. What does your office look like on the Monday after Thanksgiving?

Mr. SCHULTZ: Usually, like, we get a trend on Monday morning right after the holidays. It's usually like the long weekend. You get people coming in with, you know, I pulled my hamstring or, just like you, sprained my ankle. Sometimes it's minor like that, but sometimes it's even a little bit more serious like someone fully blew out their knee, or like, really herniated a disc on their back, very common, like, right after this long holiday.

SMITH: And they admit to you that it's a touch football that kind of thing, is it also skiing and any sort of activities?

Mr. SCHULTZ: Yeah. Usually - I mean, everyone likes to go out, like on Thanksgiving. Like, it sounds like a great idea. Like when you're out at dinner or having a couple of drinks and you get together with your family or old friends and try to relive the things that you did when you're 18 or 20.

STEWART: Try to be pretend to be the Kennedys.

Mr. SCHULTZ: Yeah, exactly.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SMITH: Exactly. So be brutally honest with me. I mean, do people like me get injured because I have no skill, or because I'm too old, or out of shape? I mean, what's my problem?

Mr. SCHULTZ: No. Just like you said it before, it's that you haven't done anything all year. So if you haven't done anything all year, maybe five years, and decided, like, it looks like fun, you're going to go out and play some football with your friends or family, you just - it's just that you haven't done it before. And anytime you do a new activity that you haven't done in a while, you're going to - I mean, you tend to get more injuries, or you're susceptible to some more injuries.

SMITH: So we have three days. Is there anything that we can do to get ready for this?

Mr. SCHULTZ: Yeah. I would say in three days, it's going to be a little tough to get yourself…

SMITH: You have to have, like, a month-long training regiment for touch football.

Mr. SCHULTZ: Yeah. I don't know about that. But in - I would say before you play, definitely do a warm up. A lot of people go out there and you just -something as simple as jogging - go for a little jog around the park, maybe mimic the activities that you're going to do. So if you're going to play football, maybe do a couple of sprints or cut, run back and forth around the field.

SMITH: I can mimic dropping the ball…

Mr. SCHULTZ: Yeah, there you go.

SMITH: Having no one to throw it to me - that kind of thing.

Mr. SCHULTZ: Yeah, sounds good. And then you could stretch out also because I see a lot of - again, Monday morning, I'm going to see a lot of people with hamstring strains, calf strains - and all these things could be avoided by just a simple warm up or just stretching - stretching those muscles that you tend to injure.

SMITH: Was there any special equipment? I mean, can I pull something out of the closet and, I don't know, put on a knee brace or something?

STEWART: Wrap your something bubble wrap?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. SCHULTZ: No. No. I would say the best thing is just to warm up and stretch. And don't worry about - don't be concerned that much about hurting yourself. Just go out there and have fun, but just make sure you're nice and warmed up - nice and warmed up and stretched is the best thing.

STEWART: Are the people who show up at your office - I'm going to just throw a little coal on this fire.

Mr. SCHULTZ: Yeah.

STEWART: Is it gender specific?


Mr. SCHULTZ: No. I would say that touch football maybe gender specific, but there's also the - people also tend to do like the turkey-trot run.

STEWART: What's - the what?

Mr. SCHULTZ: …which is - they tend to go out, and like every Thanksgiving, there is like either a 5K or a local small race in the neighborhood. And I think that's not gender specific where everyone just goes out, maybe they haven't run all year, and they decided to run in a race, and then everyone will get hurt with that.

STEWART: We're sort of making fun of this. But I'm guessing you might see some people who do some serious - real long-term damage, the kind of thing where they're actually having to come to your office more than once or twice.

Mr. SCHULTZ: Yeah, definitely. I mean, it's common - like, a lot of people once they get a little bit older, there's a - I guess a serious injury is like an Achilles tendon rupture or a really bad calf sprain where - when people - it's very simple to avoid. All you have to do is stretch your calf, but this would be when someone's running down the field, and you might feel like someone kicked you in the back of the leg and they turned around and then, there's no one there. There's no one behind them. And that happens, not that often, but that's where your whole Achilles tendon ruptures and your calf rolls up. And that's kind of a scary injury that needs surgery and then those people would be with me for a while after that.

SMITH: Well, I know you aren't trained as a psychologist…

Mr. SCHULTZ: Yeah.

SMITH: …but maybe you could act as one for a moment. Why do people do this? Why do they push themselves on Thanksgiving?

Mr. SCHULTZ: Well, I think there are a couple of reasons. There's - one reason is because you know you're going to eat a big meal, or after you eat a big meal, and you decided that this is the best way to burn off some extra calories. And also, it's, again, to be young again. It's fun. Everyone in there like late 20s, 30s, 40s, you try it like you remember back when you were 19 or 20 and you're trying to play that football game, and kind of relive your youth a little bit, which is good. It's great to exercise and stay young, but you just got to make sure you're prepared for it.

SMITH: Well, what if we do actually get a strain? What should I do? Hot or cold? Should I put the pumpkin pie on there or a little bit of mashed potatoes or…

Mr. SCHULTZ: I'd say that the first thing that you should do if you get the strain while you're playing is to stop playing.

SMITH: Oh, really?

Mr. SCHULTZ: Yes. Because…

STEWART: Don't try to tough it out. I bet that'd make things worse. Yeah, I'm going to walk it off.

Mr. SCHULTZ: Yeah, walk it off or tough it out - that's usually can put you on a bad spot. But I would say, stop playing, definitely, you know, sit the rest of the game out. And then, I would say ice. You can never go wrong with some ice right after you have an acute injury.

SMITH: Now, if I want to avoid this game altogether, can you give me this, some sort of official-sounding medical excuse…


SMITH: I could tell all the other guys, well, you know, I have a disconnected, deviated - what should I tell them?

Mr. SCHULTZ: I'll write you a note. Just bring a note on a nice paper.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. SCHULTZ: I'll write instructions there.

SMITH: Maybe we should put a note up on the Web site. People can download it. You can say we have a double, triple, discombobulated something something, right?

Mr. SCHULTZ: Sounds good, anything you want.

STEWART: What's the lamest explanation you've ever gotten for an injury from somebody who has walked in?

Mr. SCHULTZ: The lamest explanation I've ever got for an injury?

STEWART: Or excuse. Yeah.

Mr. SCHULTZ: I don't know.

STEWART: Something like, look, buddy, I know you didn't just get out of the car wrong.

SMITH: Do people tell you the truth?

Mr. SCHULTZ: Sometimes. Like - usually - I think usually the nighttime related injuries, I tend not to get that common an answer on.

SMITH: All right.

Mr. SCHULTZ: Maybe the in bed with their wife or something.

SMITH: Okay. I see where you're going with this.

Mr. SCHULTZ: Yeah. They - like that usually takes a couple of weeks to get out of them, I think.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. SCHULTZ: It was like, oh, I might have hurt my back doing something.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SMITH: Peter Schultz is a physical therapist at Dynamic Sports Physical Therapy in Manhattan. So all of you, whether you're exercising in bed or Thanksgiving game, keep the muscles limber and have a great Thanksgiving.

Thanks, Peter.

Mr. SCHULTZ: Thanks a lot. Bye-bye.

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