Whether you are a professional or amateur, you had to work hard and condition your body to make a sports team. And during the game, your adrenalin pumps, and you push yourself to the limits.
Occasionally, you pull a muscle or injure a joint. When it happens, it is called an acute injury, and you’re definitely aware of it.
But sometimes, it’s the simplest movements when playing sports that ultimately cause the most damage. Any movement — whether it’s swinging a bat, running, jumping, or throwing — can cause an overuse injury. One study found that almost half of individual or team sports players experience an overuse injury.
At Houston Methodist Orthopedics & Sports Medicine, with clinics in Baytown and Houston, Texas, our sports medicine expert David Lintner, MD, has spent decades helping athletes of all levels prevent overuse injuries. Here’s what you need to know to keep yourself safe and stay in the game.
Extrinsic vs. intrinsic risk factors
When you play sports, certain risk factors increase the chance that you’ll experience an overuse injury. Extrinsic risk factors — such as your equipment and training habits — are all within your control. Other risk factors — intrinsic risk factors — are sometimes outside of your control.
Intrinsic risk factors usually involve your unique anatomy, which may predispose you to certain types of overuse injuries. For instance, if your knee joint distributes weight unevenly, you may be more likely to injure the area of your knee that takes the majority of the load.
You can find out what intrinsic risk factors may be at play in your sports career by undergoing an in-depth evaluation and physical exam. Dr. Lintner identifies areas of weakness that you may need to devote extra time to strengthen and train.
He also evaluates the way you perform actions related to your sport and suggests ways to reduce stress on your joints, muscles, ligaments, and tendons.
Some intrinsic factors are also within your immediate control. For instance, if you’re overweight, you could lose weight to reduce the amount of stress on your joints. Proper athletic training is about making sure that as many intrinsic and extrinsic risk factors are taken into consideration before you even hit the field.
Your training routine matters
One of the most essential extrinsic risk factors is the manner and the speed at which you train. In fact, many training regimens are the cause of overuse injuries. Studies have found that you’re more likely to experience an overuse injury if you:
- Fail to properly warm up and cool down
- Rapidly increase your training after a period of inactivity or decreased activity
- Attempt to participate at a level that’s higher than your fitness or skill abilities
- Fail to adequately rest and recuperate after games and training
- Only play one sport
Even though you must focus on your sport to excel, if you play your favored game to the exclusion of all other physical activity, you’re likely to experience an overuse injury. Build muscles that you don’t use in your game and distribute stress to new areas by cross-training. That means you should play another sport or engage in other vigorous activities different from your primary sport.
Use the right equipment
The right gear — including proper protective equipment and supportive sports shoes — makes all the difference in protecting you from overuse injuries. Be sure to replace gear that’s worn out or doesn’t fit anymore.
Shoes should be discarded and replaced after you’ve walked or run the equivalent of 250-500 miles. If you don’t reach that limit, replace your athletic shoes twice a year to ensure your feet get the support they need.
Don’t rush back in
If you experience an overuse injury, be sure you’re fully recovered with a sign-off from our team before returning to full play. Carefully follow Dr. Lintner’s rehabilitation protocols. If you don’t rest and allow your body to heal, you have a high chance of repeating the injury or incurring a new one.
Take care of injuries now
If you’ve noticed that your knee is sore after play, or if you experience a strain or sprain, have your injury fully evaluated at one of our clinics. We have a variety of supportive therapies that help your body heal and recover.
If necessary, Dr. Lintner is also an expert at surgically repairing common overuse and acute injuries. He’s also developed rehab protocols to help you return safely to your game.
To book a sports exam or treat an overuse or acute sports injury, schedule your appointment today by phone or online form at our office nearest you.