How Athletes Can Avoid Overuse Injuries

Whether you’re a young athlete just starting out or a toughened warrior with miles of experience, an overuse injury can end your season. Sometimes the damage is severe enough to block you from your favorite sport entirely.

Unlike acute injuries that can happen in an instant, such as a wrist fracture or shoulder dislocation, overuse injuries tend to build up gradually and worsen over time. They’re also very often preventable.

At Barrington Orthopedic Specialists, we want you healthy and enjoying your sport to its fullest. That’s why we recommend our athletes understand the ins and outs of overuse injuries and how to avoid them or prevent them from worsening.

What it is

An overuse injury is any type of muscle or joint injury, such as tendinitis or a stress fracture, that's caused by repetitive microtrauma to tendons, bones, and joints.

You may have heard these injuries described as tennis elbow, swimmer's shoulder, pitching elbow, runner's knee, jumper's knee, Achilles tendinitis, shin splints, or golfer’s elbow.

Why it is

Faulty training is a common cause of overuse injuries. This usually involves a too-rapid acceleration of the intensity, duration, or frequency of your workouts.

Improper technique is another common culprit. A seemingly minor glitch in your form when you’re lifting, running, swinging, or throwing can move your joints out of alignment. This stresses out your ligaments and tendons as they work overtime to keep your body properly positioned.

An abundance of strength with limited flexibility also strains joints and may lead to overuse injuries. Flat or highly arched feet and other body alignment issues, as well as weakness in an area due to an old injury, can leave you at risk for an overuse injury.

Other factors at play include choosing the wrong shoe or other equipment for your sport or activity, training on hard versus soft surfaces, and sticking with only one type of workout rather than varying your activity through cross-training.

How to avoid it

You have several things to keep in mind that can ward off overuse injuries:

Make 10% your rule

Follow the 10% rule when you’re training: Increase your training frequency, duration, or intensity by no more than 10 percent per week. If, for instance, you’re running 10 miles now and want to go farther, aim for 11 miles next week. 

A good place to start

Start at the beginning or follow your doctor’s directions carefully if you’re returning to a sport or activity after an injury or a season off. Pushing too hard too soon can aggravate an old injury and produce new ones.

Give it a rest

Take a day off every week to let your body and mind rebuild. Younger teens should avoid playing or training more than five days a week, and stick with one sport per season.

Very varied training regimen

Include hard/easy workouts in your routine and switch up your endurance activities by moving from swimming to running to cycling to working out on the elliptical.

A balancing act

Maintain overall balance by including strength training, flexibility exercises, and endurance activities in your routine workouts. And be sure to warm up before and cool down after every session.

Are you equipped?

Invest in the right equipment. Make sure your shoes, pads, and other equipment fit properly and are right for your sport. If your doctor recommends insoles for your flat feet, wear them.

Body language

Listen to your body and back off if you’re feeling discomfort during or after an activity, including training. Apply ice to the affected area and see us if the pain persists. We can often prevent further injury if we catch problems early.

We also encourage you to visit the us at Barrington Orthopedic Specialists before beginning a sport or if you’d like an expert evaluation of your form and overall fitness level. We can also tailor a workout regimen that enhances your athletic performance and helps prevent overuse injuries. Call or go online to schedule an appointment today.     

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