By Dr. Les Dutko, Ed.D, LAT, ATC
What Is An Overuse Injury?
There are two basic types of injuries, acute and overuse! Acute injuries happen all at once during a single event on the other end of the spectrum overuse injuries occur over time where there are many repetitions of the same movement or skill, resulting in micro-trauma to the tendons, bones, and joints. To mention a few of the more common overuse injuries would be tennis elbow (lateral epicondylitis), runner’s knee and jumper’s knee (infrapatellar tendinitis), Achilles tendinitis and shin splints. Overuse injuries are the most common and the hardest to evaluate and treat. In sports, overuse injuries are the most prevalent and the most challenging to evaluate and treat.
Why Do Overuse Injuries Occur?
When we exercise our body undergoes a break-down and rebuilding or remodeling phase. If the breakdown phase produces a greater degree of break-down than remodeling we then undergo an overuse injury. Overuse injuries usually occur at the beginning of the season when athletes over-practice and at the end of the season when athletes’ bodies are fatigue from the length of the season. In addition, poor technique can lead to overuse injuries.
What Factors Are Usually Responsible For Overuse Injuries?
Training mistakes are the largest reason for overuse injuries. These errors involve too rapid increases of intensity, duration, or frequency of your sport. Example of this is training a runner running 3 days a week comfortably then increasing the duration and intensity to 7 days a week. Overuse injury is inevitable, it just a matter of time. Overuse injury also is the result of technical, biomechanical and individual factors. Some people are more prone to overuse injuries which are related to anatomic or biomechanical factors. Imbalances between strength and flexibility around certain joints predispose to injury. Body alignments, like knock-knees, bow legs; flat feet or high arches are also factors.
How Are Overuse Injuries Usually Diagnosed?
Overuse injuries usually are evaluated by gather a detailed history and physical examination. This is accomplished by an athletic trainer who is familiar with your sport. In certain situations, X-rays and/or bone scan or MRI are essential.
What Is The Treatment?
In most cases minor overuse injuries can be treated by reducing the intensity, duration, and the frequency of the activity which should result in relief. Designing a hard/easy workout protocol and cross training routine with other activities can keep the athlete in condition while resting the affected overuse injury. Have an athletic trainer or an experienced coach regarding proper training techniques and body mechanics. In addition executing proper stretching and warm up regime before the activity and ice after the sport could prove to eliminate overuse problems. Also taking an over the counter anti-inflammatory medications can relieve symptoms. Lastly a visit to you orthopedic or your sports medicine specialist would be a wise decision. Physical therapy and athletic training services may also be helpful.
Can Overuse Injuries Be Prevented?
The majority of overuse injuries can be prevented by using proper training protocol and common sense. By listening to your body and remember that pain is a negative reaction and you need to reduce and eliminate pain. The 10% rule is very helpful, as an athlete you should never increase your training regime more than 10% per week.
Matava, Matthew L, MD “Overuse Injuries” www.sportsmed.org