Overuse vs. Traumatic Injuries
There are two types of injuries that an athlete may encounter: one caused by an acute trauma, the other resulting from overuse.
The Traumatic Injury:
The Traumatic Injury is violent and sudden, such as sprains, lacerations, torn ligaments, pulled muscles, or broken bones caused by a fall. These types of injury usually require immediate professional treatment. If the injury causes immediate pain, swelling, inability to use the injured body part, or severe pain that does not subside in 30 to 40 minutes the injury should be examined by a professional. If the athlete hears or feels a crack, tear or pop and the pain persists, help should be sought.
The Overuse Injury:
Overuse injuries are more common and develop over a long period of time from mild or low-grade repeated stress. Overtraining results in overuse injuries, and sometimes this type of injury can be associated with anatomical variation; such as: flat or high arches, leg length discrepancies, or an abnormally sized or positioned kneecap. The knees (i.e. Iliotibial Band Syndrome, Runner’s Knee) and Achilles tendon (tendonitis) are most adversely affected by overtraining. The pain resulting from overuse injuries is usually not severe and is often ignored by the athlete. It is more difficult to determine whether or not professional help is needed. If the pain persists for more than 10 to 14 days after following basic self care treatments, such as decreasing the level of activity, ice and heat, aspirin or ibuprofen, or stretching, professional advice is necessary.
Causes of Overuse Injuries:
- Anatomical variations such as flat or high arches, leg length discrepancies, or abnormal kneecap position can create biomechanical problems that may lead to an overuse injury.
- More than half of all running related injuries are due to training errors. Each run stresses the body. Daily high intensity training does not allow the body adequate time to adjust and recover. An imbalance of hard and easy workouts can also contribute to injury.
Self-Care for Overuse Injuries:
- Reduce mileage and intensity for 7 to 10 days; never run through pain. Evaluate training habits.
- If the pain is severe at the beginning of and during activity, the activity should be stopped completely. If the pain is present at the beginning of activity but lessens and does not return until a few hours later, then the level of activity should be reduced. Other aerobic activities should be considered to maintain cardiovascular fitness.
- Reduce inflammation by icing the area after activity and by taking aspirin or ibuprofen throughout the day. After the first 72 hours of ice therapy, encourage healing with a whirlpool, massage, or alternating ice and heat therapy ( always end with ice).
Prevention of Overuse Injuries:
- Follow these guidelines for self-care.
- Understand the effects of long-term exercise programs on the bones, joints and muscles.
- A conditioning program including stretching, strengthening exercises and cross training.
- Properly fitted athletic shoes and sock selection.