The pandemic has been trying for everyone in many ways. With the initial closure of gyms, cancelation of organized sports and concerns due to group events, one significant limitation that people have felt has been lack of ability to exercise. As the pandemic has stretched out and people have begun to slowly, or rapidly, return to sport and activity, Dr. Andrew Haas, Westmed orthopedic surgeon and sports medicine physician has been seeing many common overuse injuries.
Overuse injuries are the result of damage to muscles, tendons, ligaments and bones from a repetitive trauma or strain and approximately 30 to 50 per cent of all sports injuries result from overuse. These injuries can present from training errors such as starting a program too fast or with too much intensity or frequency. They can also occur as a result of a technique error in the sport or exercise or due to an underlying cause of a person’s particular biomechanics or medical condition. Common overuse injuries include tendonitis, muscle strains, stress fractures, runner’s knee, shin splints and tennis elbow.
Most overuse injuries can be avoided by:
1. Ensuring Appropriate Technique
When changing the intensity or duration of a physical activity or new exercise, do so slowly. To avoid repetitive overloading, don’t focus on one type of exercise. Add a variety of exercise and activities to your routine such as walking or swimming. It’s also important to allow for appropriate rest between workouts.
2. Daily Activity
Dr. Haas suggests participation in a strength and stretching program as well as ensuring that sport activity is performed in a safe manner with appropriate volume, frequency and mechanics.
3. Promptly Treating Pain Symptoms
If there is pain with a sport that is sharp or inhibits participation in the activity, it’s a good idea to begin treating the pain right away with rest, anti-inflammatory medications and ice. If the pain does not resolve or it returns upon resumption of the sport, an evaluation with a sports medicine orthopedic surgeon is valuable. An initial evaluation can help to rule out more significant injuries like stress fractures and can help to define the specific cause of the injury. With this information, a specific plan can be designed to enable you to return to your regular activity. If left untreated, the tissue damage from an overuse injury can progress and lead to markedly worse symptoms as well as further damage to the tissues, such as ruptures of tendons, tearing of muscle and fractures of bones.
As we look toward to the end of this pandemic, we all hope to resume our normal lives, including sports and exercise. With an understanding of overuse injuries and how to avoid them, you can return to sport and other activities healthier and with greater safety. If you think you are suffering from an overuse injury, schedule an appointment with one of our orthopedic physicians.