Recurring injuries happen — and they're especially common among single-sport athletes or people who focus on one type of exercise, like runners. The reason: You're working the same muscles repeatedly. The end result: Your joints, muscles and tissues get worn out.
Breaking Down Recurring Injuries
Overuse injuries are a big deal. Continuing to re-injure the same muscle groups can take you out of the game entirely and limit your ability to participate in other activities. Here's what you need to know about these all-to-common ailments:
What Are Recurring Injuries?
Recurring injuries, also called repetitive and overuse injuries, are injuries that happen repeatedly in the same location. Think along the lines of tendinitis, stress fractures, shin splints and even carpal tunnel syndrome. Common sites include ankles, knees, hips and shoulders.
Who Is At Risk For Repetitive Injuries?
Overuse injuries can happen to anyone, but they're more likely to occur among workers who do repetitive motions and single-sport athletes. The risk of these injuries also increases with age. They're more likely to occur if you don't recognize the impact aging can have on your muscles, joints and tissues and modify your activities accordingly.
Why Do Recurring Injuries Happen?
Recurring injuries happen when you overuse the same muscles without sufficient recovery. It's simple body mechanics: If you continue using compromised muscles, you're more likely to get reinjured. And once you get stuck in that same biomechanic loop, it's nearly impossible to recover without changing your routine and learning new techniques.
How Can You Prevent Recurring Injuries?
All sports have a risk of injury. The key is paying attention to your body and taking the appropriate steps to minimize your risk. Here's how:
- Use appropriate gear. Make sure you're wearing appropriate protective gear for the activity you're participating in and choose the right footwear.
- Alternate muscle groups. Instead of focusing on one type of exercise, switch things up. Incorporate low-impact activities, such as swimming, biking and water sports, and make sure you're not overloading any particular muscle group.
- Take rest days. It's important to give your muscles, joints and tissues time to recover. Two days of rest each week is best. If you play a sport, plan to have at least one off day per week and at least one month off per year.
- Strengthen muscles. Conditioning exercises can help strengthen the muscles you need to perform various activities.
- Use proper form. Overuse injuries are sometimes related to improper form during activity. Work with a professional to ensure you're using proper body mechanics and get back to your usual activities gradually.
Play it Safe
The best way to avoid recurrent injuries is to not get injured in the first place. Recover during the season — even if it means missing out on some play. It's better to show up to a game healthy but undertrained than to power through an injury and risk reinjury.
Talk to your doctor before starting a new activity or ramping up your current routine. If you're at risk of developing a recurrent injury, a professional can provide you with a workout regimen that can help prevent injury.
Most important: Don't let an overuse injury prevent you from being physically active. Instead, listen to your body, consult a professional and pace yourself. Treatment may involve avoiding a specific activity for a period of time, along with hot and cold therapy, massage and focused rehabilitation.
Nick Parkinson, M.Ed., AT, ATC, TSAC-F, is the Supervisor of Athletic Training with Henry Ford Sports Medicine and also leads Sports Performance training at the William Clay Ford Center for Athletic Medicine. Learn more about Nick.