Let’s start with mobility. When it comes to mobility, it’s important to note that adequate mobility is a huge factor in being able to run fast AND stay healthy. Why is this? Well, if you don’t have complete range of motion throughout your lower body, you will be MUCH more susceptible to injury. Plus, obtaining optimal mobility allows you to improve performance as well as cover more ground – remember, stride frequency and stride length are the two factors that determine running speed. Maintaining flexibility and mobility via proper methods of stretching to lengthen muscles can go a LONG way toward helping all of the above.
There are LOTS of areas in our athletic lives that we do have the ability to control in regards to staving off injury and what not. This involves everything from making sure that we’re wearing the appropriate gear – be it safety (like helmets, pads, shin guards, etc.) or otherwise (sturdy shoes, etc.) – to ensuring proper body mechanics and the like. Now, obviously, each and every sport will have its own set of “rules” in regards to what’s right and what’s wrong when it comes to form and function.
The vast majority of overuse injuries are easily recognizable by the associated pain and/or a decrease in ability and loss of function. It is so incredibly important to note that pain should not be ignored because, even if the pain isn’t affecting performance in the present, ignoring it will NOT make it go away. In fact, ignoring the pain of an injury can lead to much greater damage being sustained in the future.
With all of those activities – especially when started up again after a few months of cold weather inactivity – injuries can easily occur. One type of injury that you don’t hear very much about, though, is “overuse injuries”. So, we thought now would be a GREAT time to discuss some of the most common overuse injuries that we see so that YOU know what to look out for…or, better yet, avoid all together!
Warm-Up: Always, always, ALWAYS take the time to warm up and stretch prior to practice or competition. Cold muscles have a much higher incidence of sustaining injury. So, make sure to warm up with five minutes of jumping jacks, light jogging, or walking. Then, slowly and gently begin to stretch, with a bit of extra attention being given to hips, knees, calves, and thighs.
The athletic shoes of today have come a long way from their predecessors, and are highly diversified at that. Present day athletic footwear is designed with specific activities in mind – including running, hiking, baseball, softball, soccer, basketball, football, tennis, and volleyball. And, it’s recommended that if you’re participating in a particular sport more than two times per week you should be fitted for and purchase shoes that have been specifically designed for that sport (such as a running shoe, court shoe, cleats, etc).
For as high impact and collision prone of a sport as soccer is, the amount of protective gear worn by the players is pretty minimal. Shin guards, obviously, are paramount, because they protect the lower leg. In fact, it’s been shown time and again that a good portion of the lower leg injuries that occur in soccer are due to inadequate shin guards. Aside from mouth guards and the occasional lightly padded gear that goal keepers often wear to protect themselves from obscene amounts of turf burn, shin guards are pretty much “it” when it comes to protective gear and soccer players.
Wrist sprains are a common injury that seems to affect those who participate in volleyball, tennis, and hockey at a somewhat higher rate. These sports involve excessive usage of the hands, which means that the wrists are always exposed to injuries. A wrist sprain occurs when a ligament is torn or stretched, and frequently occurs by falling over the wrist, or twisting it abnormally while playing a sport.
Runner’s knee can affect one or both knees and is often seen in younger, recreational runners (and twice as many women as men – this is due to the fact that women tend to have wider hips), which results in a greater angling of the thighbone to the knee which, in turn, puts the kneecap(s) under more stress. Symptoms of runner’s knee include tenderness behind or around the patella (knee cap), usually toward its center. You may feel pain toward the back of the knee, a sense of cracking or that the knee’s giving out. The condition tends to worsens when athletes run uphill, downhill, or up and down stairs. A popping sensation is sometimes audible. In the worst cases, the knee may swell.