How to Prevent a Repetitive Strain Injury from Your Favorite Sport

repetitive strain injury

Are you still suffering from repeated injuries in your favorite sport?

Do you keep trying to return to the field or court but find yourself sidelined by injuries?

There is no doubt about it. Continuing a train of injuries can be one of the most frustrating experiences as an outdoor enthusiast and athlete.

When you just want to get outside and enjoy your sport, you are suddenly forced to stop due to a repetitive strain injury. Nothing can take the wind out of your sails faster than this experience.

In this article, we will walk you through everything you need to know to prevent repetitive strain injuries to your body from your favorite sport. Read on, and you’ll learn how to stay pain-free and healthy for longer.

What Can I Do To Prevent Repetitive Strain Injury In My Sport?

Everyone knows the feeling. You’ve done everything you can to prevent an injury.

You make sure to wear your knee brace inside the basketball court, you always bring your helmet skiing or to the ice rink, and you make sure to warm up properly. Nonetheless, at the end of the day, you have a new injury to nurse at home.

Why does this keep happening?

Of course, these types of safety precautions are invaluable. But the reality is there’s much more to keeping yourself active and injury-free than just taking basic measures.

Many times, athletes aren’t thinking about the types of injuries that can occur slowly over the long term. They haven’t planned to protect themselves from developing problems like sprains, strains, and stress injuries.

Of course, some sports will always be rough-and-tumble. Nonetheless, you can take an active role in preparing your body to keep yourself in the game.

We’ve put together just a few tips for you to prevent overuse injuries.

The Essential Warm Up

Everyone knows that warming up is one of the most important things you can do to prevent immediate injury once you start to play. Before you begin any sport or outdoor activity, such as running, biking, walking or hiking, or team or individual sports, you must absolutely warm up to meet the needs of the activity.

Doing a complete warm-up helps to wake up your muscles and tissues so that they can be activated in an appropriate manner. This will help to prevent tears, stress injuries, or sprains in your muscles or tendons. There are different types of dynamic and static warm-up exercises that are most appropriate to your sport.

These are based on the types of muscles that are activated during play.

Of course, this isn’t rocket science. Most people know to warm up before they begin. Nonetheless, if you are not warming up before participating in your sport, you are asking for trouble.

Make sure to take the extra time to warm up thoroughly and appropriately every time you hit the field.

Easing Back In

Especially when returning to sport, it can be very tempting to jump right back in. You naturally want to push yourself to the limit right away. But it is very important to pace yourself so that you don’t welcome repetitive use injuries.

This is a serious problem for the proverbial weekend warrior. Many people will pack several long and intense workouts into their weekends, and then spend the week in recovery.

This takes a toll on your body and is a recipe for a repetitive strain injury.

Repetitive use injuries are things like stress fractures or tendonitis. They most often come to athletes from overtraining, inadequate recovery, or poor form.

The more you can take the extra time to slowly build your strength, while not forgetting proper technique, the more likely you are to stay safe.

If you try to push your limits or cheat repetitions with poor form, you are sure to end up in the doctor’s office from a repetitive sports injury. This will keep you out of the game for much longer.

So What Is Reasonable?

For most people, 30 minutes of moderate physical activity per day is reasonable. This helps people return to sport to build their strength and stamina.

For most weightlifters, don’t increase the weight by more than 10% each week per exercise.

Keeping Your Equipment In Check

Depending on the sport, your equipment can play a major role in whether or not you keep yourself free from soft tissue injuries. If you are constantly using outdated or poor fitting equipment, you are putting additional stresses on your body that may manifest as injury over time.

There are several types of athletic equipment that are made specifically so that you can avoid a repetitive use injury. For example, runners can purchase shoes that have the right support and padding for their individual feet. Not everyone has the same type of undersole, so this needs to be individualized for each person.

Other sports like skating or hockey require additional padding or braces. It can be tempting to keep athletic equipment for decades at a time due to nostalgia. We naturally don’t want to stop playing in the same equipment or uniform that we wore when we won major accolades in years past.

Nonetheless, athletic equipment does wear out over time. It is essential to keep all of your equipment up to date and according to manufacturer standards.

Runners may need to replace their running shoes after several hundred miles so that they don’t lose cushioning and risk a repetitive stress injury to the heel.

The Insidious Overuse Injury

When you think about sports injuries as you are preparing to return to sport for the first time, you will most likely think about major injuries such as tendon ruptures or fractures. While contact sports do carry these risks, most soft tissue injuries that you will face over time will be those found in noncontact sports.

These are injuries that develop due to stress that has built up over several weeks to months. It places your body in a vulnerable position such that when certain force is applied repeatedly, you are left with a stress fracture, shin splints, pulled muscles, strains, tendinitis, or burning or aching pain in the joints.

Almost every athlete has developed one of these problems over time. In the medical world, these are called overuse injuries.

The unfortunate reality is that athletes don’t need to spend a lot of time in their sport to develop an overuse injury. Using poor equipment or placing undue stress on your body in a short period of time can also cause an overuse injury. Anytime you are condensing your workouts and pushing your musculoskeletal system to its limit, you are at risk.

A Special Word For Runners

Runners in particular are prone to overuse injuries. There are a few steps that runners can take to keep themselves in the game.

The first thing to remember is not to push through the pain. Whenever physical difficulty increases to the point of pain, there is probably something wrong.

It is much better to stop your workout and give your body some rest. This way you won’t exacerbate any existing problem or threat to your muscles or tendons.

You want to slowly ramp up your runs so that you are increasing mileage by more than 10 percent every week. In general, 45 miles per week is a good maximum limit for most runners.

If you continue to exceed this, you are not likely to see an additional benefit. On the other hand, your risk of injury skyrockets.

When you are out running you want to try to find soft, flat surfaces. While trail runners often have a challenge finding roots like this, they have to accept a greater degree of injury to their feet and ankles.

Professional Reinforcement

As discussed above, runners should replace their shoes approximately every 500 miles. Their ability to absorb shock will decrease over time.

Runners may also benefit from seeing a podiatrist or foot and ankle specialist. Some runners will pronate their foot when running and could benefit from a specialized orthotic.

Other runners with flat feet or those who require arch support should also see a specialist.

Bone Health In Runners

One other unique issue notable for female runners is calcium supplementation. Women and adolescent girls need to make sure that they are getting enough calcium so that they can avoid the development of stress fractures in the lower body. These stress fractures are 10 times higher in women than they are men.

By ensuring that your bones get the adequate nutrition they need from calcium, you are greatly reducing the chance of this occurring as a female runner.

Specialized Training For Certain Anatomic Regions

There are certain types of injury patterns that general sports medicine specialists commonly see. Here are some common overuse injuries and some special strengthening moves that can prevent them.

Knee Pain

There are a variety of reasons for knee pain, and it is one of the most common symptoms that sports medicine physicians treat.

Some people notice that over time the front of their knee hurts when they are climbing stairs. It may also stiffen as they are resting for a long period of time. This may be a problem with the groove or alignment during your workouts.

You can begin a strengthening protocol to develop the inner thigh muscles, which typically are less strong than the outer muscles in these patients.

Wall sits are an excellent exercise to develop these muscles.

You can stand against the wall and press your back flat, slowly lowering it until your legs are at 90°. Try to hold this position as long as you can. If you can hold it for 10 seconds, take a break, and then try again when you are ready for the next round.

Make sure that your hips do not go lower than your knees, and that your knees do not extend beyond your toes.

Sore Shoulders

Many swimmers, weightlifters, tennis players, and throwing sports athletes suffer from sore shoulders.

The rotator cuff is the common culprit here. These are muscles that help to connect to the arm bone and keep it in its shoulder socket.

Shoulder shrugs are great exercises for preventing injury in sports. You want to lift both of your shoulders and squeeze them together at the top, then release. Try to do this 25 times in a row, twice per day.

Hamstring Pulls

Hamstring injuries are very common in sprinters or runners that accelerate from a stop. Baseball players are particularly prone to these injuries.

To strengthen your hamstring and prevent hamstring pulls, lie down on the ground on your stomach. You want to pull your abdominal muscles in tight to help protect and engage the lower back. Then slowly lift one of your legs up in the air for a few seconds. Carefully lowered back down and lift the other leg. Try to do three sets of 10 repetitions every day per leg.

Specialized Sports Care For Repetitive Use Hand Injuries

As you age as an athlete, keeping yourself free from injury is one of the most important duties you have to be able to continue enjoying your sport.

With preventive strength conditioning exercises, stretching, and proper equipment, you can set yourself up for success over the long term.

If you are suffering from repetitive strain injury to one or both of your hands, we are here to help. At Hand Surgery Specialists of Texas, we are experts in common sports injuries to the hand and forearm. Please contact us today if you are interested in seeing one of our doctors.

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