Every day in practice, I see a variety of patients of all ages, from the very young to the very old. In all cases, if they participate in sports or recreational activities, they all seem to suffer from different types of injuries. Participation in any exercise program that places a demand upon the body that is stressful may result in discomfort or pain. It is important to understand the pain is signaling injury. Pain is our body’s way of telling us that the muscle tissue has been injured. Many people just ignore the pain, and others refuse to believe that they are hurt, and still others feel that it will go away with time. Pain should be considered a signal to analyze the situation within yourself or with the help of a healthcare provider.
The injury should not be treated as routine, since proper evaluation as to the cause of the problem oftentimes can be the first step in treating and resolving the problem.
There are two basic types of injuries. Acute trauma is the injury that occurs from (for example) stepping in a pothole and twisting your ankle, or falling when playing basketball. These are obvious single-event injuries that require immediate attention.
Another type of injury is chronic, which comes on slowly and gradually gets worse as time passes. These will have the greatest negative effect on any one individual because the more you do something and try to avoid the discomfort, the more unhealthy you will probably become and the more severe the injury may become. Overuse injuries have several causes, and in most cases, you can avoid them. The major causes of these problems are improper training programs. Many people neglect to warm up and cool down properly or try to advance too rapidly in their exercise program.
If you find yourself in these categories, it would be wise to follow the adage, “train but don’t strain”, rather than the more often heard, “no pain, no gain” which may lead to unnecessary injuries.
A second cause for injuries is the result of a deficiency or imbalance of strength, flexibility, or endurance from one side of the body to the other. You will find in this example, many people will begin a new exercise program, doing something for the first time, whether it be gardening, softball, golf, etc. many times injuring their bodies. An anatomical consideration of the body structure should be a concern. Structural alterations of the spine and extremities, rotation of the hips, placement of the knee caps, bow legs, and flat feet can all lead to a stress injury.
These situations can lead to a series of what we call mini-traumas. For example, as a runner, you take an average of 10,000 steps per hour and experience no discomfort in the beginning. However, the constant repetition and positioning of your body segments, lead to a wearing down of muscular and connective tissue from the stress you are placing on it.
The third consideration of injuries can be the improper use of equipment. Although this may not mean defective equipment, you may be using the wrong equipment for a particular activity. Or maybe participating in a high-risk area with many hazardous conditions surrounding you.
A fourth and probably the most overlooked cause of injuries is an improper technique during the performance of any activity. People using poor preparation on a tennis swing, or golf swing, or inadequately using their legs to throw a baseball, may injure themselves through the repetitive improper movement of their limbs.
Overuse injuries are the most commonly reported injuries. They often lead to trauma injuries. If you have an imbalance of muscle structure, overuse can weaken that area and make you vulnerable to an injury in a stressful situation.
In everyday practice, I see a variety of injuries. At the collegiate level at Northwestern University and at the University of WI- Parkside, we see a combination and accumulation of injuries that occur while playing sports. I see a multitude of people that play recreational sports, daily housework, outdoor work, and competitive sports that all suffer the different types of injuries mentioned previously. If you fall into one of these categories, it is very important to be evaluated to rehabilitate it and get you back to where you should be from a health standpoint.