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Injury Management: reduce your chances of an injury recurrence

We’re an active bunch on the Northern Beaches and you’ll find that injury prevention and recovery are 2 major aspects of sports physio clinics in Dee Why. Chances are at some point you’ve experienced an injury, whether you tore an ACL, strained a hammy or twinged your neck and if you’re one of the unfortunate many you’ve probably reinjured it at least a couple of times. Recurrent injuries aren’t confined to AFL players and other professional athletes. Computer programmers are more susceptible to a recurrence of tennis elbow than tennis players, remember? Unfortunately prevention can’t always prevent a hammy strain, but once an injury has occurred you have the power to start the prevention cycle all over again.

There are a number of factors that influence the statistical probability of suffering an injury recurrence; if you watch a sport regularly you can probably name 1 or 2 athletes that seem to suffer the same injury over and over again. NRL player Tautau Moga for instance is only 25 years old and has torn his left ACL 4 times, having a full reconstruction and rehabilitation after each occasion. Researchers are getting better at injury prevention and management every day and sports and musculoskeletal physiotherapists are experts in getting to the things that increase injury recurrence:

Insufficient rehabilitation from previous injury

Call it youthful exuberance in wanting to get back into it too quickly, call it being lazy and not completing your full rehabilitation but one of the most common reasons for suffering a recurrence of an injury is failing to rehab properly. Overloading is a great short term principle and is part of effective programming to allow for super-compensation and increase fitness and strength, but IT DOES NOT APPLY DURING INJURY RECOVERY. Any professional level athlete in any sport will tell you their recovery is just as important as their training when it comes to performance. Failing to follow your physiotherapist’s full rehabilitation program for your sore hammy is only going to end one way. Your guessed it – a pain in the butt!

Neglecting symptoms of pain

Speaking of pain, one of the next most popular reasons people reinjure themselves is failing to heed your body’s best warning signal; pain. “I’ll just run it off” doesn’t cut it as an effective treatment strategy for managing most musculoskeletal injuries but it’s still one of the most common things that people like to do for some reason. Most chronic back, neck, knee, hip, groin, ankle and hamstring injuries will usually give you some warning sign before they completely give up. Don’t treat that shooting pain in your leg like the check engine light in an old car and just put some tape on it either. Strapping and taping is good in some instances, but it can’t keep a hamstring in place for long.

Poor conditioning or fitness

Coming back from long term injury can be tough and it’s common to let fitness levels slip while injured which can often lead to poor performance or additional musculoskeletal injury upon returning to physical activity. Every bit of physical activity outside of your physically repetitive job is going to lower your chances of suffering a repetitive strain injury as well. While you are recovering from an injury, try and do all you can to keep moderately active, whether it be short walks, dumbbell curls or simple sit-ups.

Poor technique and movement control

Poor technique and movement control are probably the 2 most important factors that cause injuries in the first place and they continue to play a part in injury recurrences. I don’t know how many times I’ve seen someone load up weights to the max at the gym, lifting far too much and trading technique for weight. This principle can be applied to most physical activities. Most injuries occur when you go too hard, are fatigued and are using movements that you are not at the unconscious competence stage of performing yet.

Poor or no warm-up/warm-down

Be honest, do you spend 10 minutes warming up and down every time before and after sport and physical activity? A well performed warm-up before a workout is going to dilate your blood vessels, ensuring your muscles are supplied with enough oxygen while also raising your muscles’ temperature aiding in achieving optimal flexibility and efficiency. Cooling down after physical activity is every bit as important as warming up. Stretching while you’re cooling down is the way to go because your muscles, limbs and joints are still warm. Stretching is going to reduce the build-up of lactic acid, which is the leading cause of muscle cramp and stiffness.

If you have suffered an injury, don’t shirk your recovery. Speaking with an expert in sports and musculoskeletal physiotherapy and undertaking a custom made rehabilitation program is going to shorten the length of your recovery, minimise your risk of a recurrence of your injury and also help provide you with the knowledge you need to continue to prevent injury independently.

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