A checkup, improved strength, flexibility can help prevent injuries when starting a new sport
Winter couch potatoes who decide to get active in the spring may be at risk for injury if they don't take the proper steps to safely get into shape, an expert warns.
Before you begin an exercise program or new sport, you need to get an assessment of your physical condition, including weight and cardiovascular fitness, advised Dr. Anders Cohen, chief of neurosurgery and spine surgery  at The Brooklyn Hospital Center. He suggested that this may be a good time to get your annual physical.
Cohen also recommends people spend three weeks working on areas such as strength and flexibility to prepare for taking part in new sports or activities. This preparation may include things such as working out at the gym, following along with an exercise video, climbing stairs or doing Pilates exercises.
Another important thing to remember is to take steps to prevent chronic injuries or re-injuries.
"These are the injuries that make people give up a sport. If, for example, you always sprain your ankle, pay attention to strengthening that area," Cohen said in a hospital news release.
He compared chronic injuries to a tire with a slow leak.
"Once you have an injury, that part of your body is always more susceptible. Pay attention to preexisting conditions and work on strengthening those areas," he suggested.
It also helps to be sports-specific in your physical preparations, Cohen noted.
"For example, if you're a baseball player, you want to start playing catch, alternating distances and angles to increase flexibility, reflexes and loosen your arm. That's also a good idea for tennis players since catching a ball and volleying with a tennis racket require the same motion. Basketball players will want to increase cardio endurance by running up stairs," Cohen said.
Additional tips offered by the doctor include: taking 10 minutes to warm up (stretching and loosening up) before any physical activity and 10 minutes cooling down afterwards; and monitor your progress and physical condition in order to improve your performance/results.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about physical activity .