While regular exercise and playing sports are great for physical and mental health, athletes must remember to protect themselves from overuse injuries. Repetitive actions like swimming, throwing, running, and cycling can lead to damaged ligaments, muscles, tendons, and bones if the proper steps aren’t taken to prevent such issues.
Poor form, failing to warm up or cool down, and not taking enough time to recover are all common causes of overuse injuries. Thankfully, Jack Miletic of Delray Beach says that athletes can follow some simple methods to reduce their chances of suffering from even minor injuries and painful setbacks.
IT Band Syndrome
The ITB or iliotibial band is a line of connective tissue running from just below the knee on the outside of the leg up to the hip.
According to the experts, when the load placed on this band exceeds its strength, it contracts, pulling on the side of the knee.
Those with IT Band Syndrome, often cyclists or runners, tend to experience pain on the outer side of the knee that worsens during repetitive movements.
Athletes can prevent this injury by working to strengthen their core and hips, simultaneously maintaining and improving flexibility in the hamstrings, piriformis, and hip flexor.
Tightness in the calves causes plantar fasciitis, like shin splints. However, it can also come from limited big toe mobility, weakness in an ankle, knee, or hip, and wearing improperly sized footwear.
The plantar fascia connects the toes to the heel bone while supporting the foot’s arch. The professionals at Johns Hopkins Medicine explain that overexhertion of this band of tissue often leads to heel pain and inflammation.
Preserving flexibility in the foot and big toes is key to preventing plantar fasciitis, though maintaining correct form and properly fitting shoes are equally important.
Shoulder impingement is a common overuse injury (especially in active 30- to 40-year-olds) in the muscles and tendons surrounding the shoulder joint, known as the rotator cuff.
Jack Miletic explains that repetitive overhead movements while the shoulder joint is rotated forward cause shoulder impingement, resulting in pain when lifting something overhead.
To prevent the injury, athletes should strengthen the scapular, keeping their shoulders in the proper position while doing so. Maintaining flexibility and a full range of motion is also imperative, and proper stretching and warm-up routines are also vital.
When muscle tightness (particularly in the hamstring, ITB muscles, and hip flexors) occurs, the kneecap is often pulled in the wrong way, rubbing on the bone behind it. This injury is known as runner’s knee, which brings dull pain in the front of the knee, sometimes accompanied by clicking or weakness.
In order to prevent the development of runner’s knee, athletes should always warm up correctly and stretch well before and after exercising. Strengthening the quadricep muscles also helps the kneecap maintain proper alignment.
The Bottom Line on Overuse Injuries
Many types of overuse injuries exist, some often causing high levels of pain and hindering performance.
Thankfully, athletes can actually prevent them quite easily by strengthening the relevant muscles, gradually increasing exercise intensity, listening to their bodies, allowing adequate time to recover, and always following beneficial warm-up and cooldown routines.