Don’t be the turkey injured in the Turkey Bowl

Unfortunately, Dr. Steven Chudik, orthopaedic surgeon and sports medicine specialist with the Shoulder, Knee and Sports Medicine Clinic in Westmont and Western Springs, Ill., has seen many injuries during his 19 years in practice that are the direct result of a once-a-year Thanksgiving Day ritual for many—the Turkey Bowl. Some injuries are preventable; some are not. Therefore, if you or someone you know plays in a Turkey Bowl, or might be considering playing to burn off calories from the day, Dr. Chudik has some tips and suggestions to help prevent injuries.

Little did President Abraham Lincoln know in 1863 that by declaring the fourth Thursday of every November officially a national day of Thanksgiving he also would be starting the tradition of the Turkey Bowl just a mere six years later.

Originally, a reference for college games played on Thanksgiving; the Turkey Bowl through the years also has included professional and amateur games. Today, the moniker is probably most commonly associated with neighborhood games played Thanksgiving day by former athletes and friends—most of who are no longer in the shape they once were making them more susceptible to injury.

The most common injuries are strains or pulled muscles—hamstring, quadriceps, groin and calf. These injuries often can be prevented with a good warm-up that includes dynamic stretching and some running. (If you need a good warm-up program, visit Dr. Chudik’s foundation website for a sport-specific injury prevention and conditioning program developed by Dr. Chudik and his sports performance team. For some basic warm-up exercises, consider these before practice and the game.

Warm up exercises to help prevent Turkey Bowl injuries

Also, remember the R.I.C.E protocol for pulled or strained muscles, which stands for Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation. In addition, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication such as ibuprofen can help provide pain relief.

Although muscle strains are common following Turkey Bowl games, Dr. Chudik also sees and treats more serious game injuries. These include shoulder dislocations, separated shoulders, anterior cruciate ligament tears, quadriceps, patellar and Achilles tendon ruptures, and hand and ankle fractures. So remember to play smart and in control. It is no fun being injured. If you are injured, it is better to be evaluated early as neglected injuries can become difficult to treat.

Some other recommendations to consider before that friendly game, especially if you do not exercise regularly are:

    • Regular exercise and conditioning at least four to six weeks before the big game can help reduce the risk for injury. Regular stretching and strengthening, as well as running and agility exercises would be the best.
    • Avoid activities that fatigue muscles in the few days preceding the game, arrive early to warm-up, and break a sweat.

Have a safe and happy Thanksgiving.

Should an unpreventable injury occur during the game, you can schedule an appointment with Dr. Chudik by calling 630-324-0402, emailing, or by going online to his website anytime and use the scheduling tool at

Western Springs Office

Wed: 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

4700 Gilbert Avenue, Suite 51
Western Springs, Illinois 60558
Phone: 630-324-0402
Fax: 630-920-2382


Steven Chudik MD Shoulder and Knee Injury Clinic.

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