Overuse injuries common among athletes

By Mark Zunkiewicz, MD

Contributing Columnist

Physical injuries are typically associated with a bump, bruise or break due to some form of sudden trauma.

However, some injuries can be more subtle or happen over time. Such injuries are known as overuse injuries, and take place when bones, muscles, ligaments, or tendons are damaged by repetitive stress without receiving ample time to heal, according to the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine (AOSSM).

Overuse injuries are common and can happen gradually over time or when someone first starts playing a sport or activity and does too much, too quickly. Examples of such injuries include achilles tendinitis, jumper’s knee, runner’s knee, shin splints, swimmer’s shoulder, stress fractures, and tennis elbow. Overuse injuries may force a person to modify their workout routine to allow their body to fully recover and avoid the risk of re-injury, according to the AOSSM.

Treatment of overuse injuries varies for each specific issue. Ice packs and over-the-counter pain medication might be helpful, and a person’s doctor may suggest other activities to help maintain their fitness goals as they recover.

The AOSSM offers the following suggestions to help prevent overuse injuries:

• Create a fitness plan that helps you map out your goals.

• Don’t increase your workout suddenly. Instead, increase no more than 10 percent each week.

• Listen to your body; don’t ignore pain or signs of problems.

• Rest your body by planning time off into your workout schedule. This allows time for your body to recover.

• Seek advice from a sports medicine specialist.

• Take time to warm up before a workout and to cool down and stretch after a work out.

• Use ice after your workout.

The AOSSM also advises patients to not overdo it, and that having a specified training plan for their sport or activity can be a patient’s best defense against overuse injuries.

Mark Zunkiewicz, MD, is an orthopedic surgeon at Premier Orthopedics.

Mark Zunkiewicz, MD, is an orthopedic surgeon at Premier Orthopedics.