For most of us, an active lifestyle serves as more than merely obligatory workouts to keep the pounds off and the heart healthy. It’s more about self-challenging discipline that also serves up social and mental therapy. Balancing work, especially the inactive office type, with enjoyable physical movement provides the key to anticipating tomorrow rather than dreading it. Until, that is, we feel that tell-tale blast of pain that indicates we probably went just a little too far this time. We knew it could happen, but we hoped it never would. What are the five most common sports injuries and how can you avoid them?
Injury to your ligaments, the connective tissue in your joints, is a sprain. These occur from falls, twists and impact. You may not notice the injury right away, or you may hear a pop that alerts you immediately that the joint sustained some damage.
Strains happen when a muscle or tendon is stretched beyond its tolerances. This can even result in a very painful tear in the tissue.
Rotator Cuff or Shoulder Impingement
The rotator cuff is the series of muscles and tendons that hold the shoulder joint together and allow for its complex movement. Overuse or frequent extension can cause the head of the shoulder to impinge on tendons causing inflammation.
Painful shin splints are caused when the muscle that raises the arch of the foot starts tearing away from its attachment on the shin bone.
Knee Ligament Tears
The knee has four ligaments that are prone to damage, the ACL, PCL, LCL and MCL. They attach your knee to the bones above and below. Injuries occur when the knee is twisted, distended (bent too far forward or backward) or suffers too many impacts from jumping.
Symptoms of these five injuries include:
- Pain, either immediate or delayed
- Bruising at the site of injury
- Swelling of the joint
- Loss of motion
- Inability to put weight on the joint
- Muscle spasms and weakness
- Increased pain upon movement
You can help prevent common sports-related sprains and strains by:
- Conditioning. Work out before you engage in your sport, don’t use the sport itself as the work out. Gain overall body strength first.
- Stretching. A good daily stretching routine works wonders for keeping your muscles relaxed and ready for activity.
- Avoiding the activity when tired or fatigued. Although competition sports tend to reward going that extra mile or five, but once you’re tired, your muscles can’t brace your joints as well. Once you are completely fatigued, you’re begging for an injury if you continue to play.
- Wearing the proper shoes and any other protective gear designed for your sport. Good support for your feet, arches and ankles will go a long way towards keeping knees and spine properly aligned.
- Eat right. Nourish your body rather than merely feeding it. Junk food deprives your body of needed nutrition while loading it with performance-killing chemicals, the worst of which is monosodium glutamate.
Working with a knowledgeable, experienced physical therapist.
Physical therapy may be prescribed if you’ve seen your regular doctor for an injury, but you can head injuries off at the pass by visiting a therapist before they happen. Among other things, a physical therapist can:
- show you how to strengthen your muscles for natural joint bracing
- perform range of motion exercises to allow your muscles, tendons and ligaments more flexibility
- educate you on proper movement methods, shoe and gear requirements for your favored sports and overall nutrition for health and vigor
Not too long ago, some sports injuries would end an athlete’s career and permanently bench the amateurs. However, with modern sports medicine and the availability of good physical therapy, those days belong in the past. Don’t let an injury ruin your fitness routine. Contact a physical therapist today.
Sprain: National Institute of Health: http://www.niams.nih.gov/health_info/sprains_strains/sprains_and_strains_ff.asp
Junk food: SFGate.com: http://healthyeating.sfgate.com/junk-food-vs-physical-performance-1692.html
Rotator cuff: Sports Injury Handbook: http://www.sportsinjuryhandbook.com/injuries/#shoulderimp
Shin Splints: ibid
Four ligaments: Web MD: http://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/guide/knee-ligament-injuries