You don’t get to be the fastest in your running club or track team without putting in the miles — and miles and miles. Similarly, you don’t develop your ace tennis serve without practice. While participating in sports is fantastic for your physical, mental, and emotional health, regular training can strain specific parts of your body. A study of elite Swedish athletics (track and field) found that 1.81 injuries occurred for every 1000 hours of training.
Fortunately, you can take steps to protect your body and avoid repetitive use injuries. Our sports medicine expert, W. Joseph Absi, MD, here at Orthopaedics of Atlanta and Aesthetics Institute in Smyrna, Georgia, has years of experience in helping athletes train smarter, get stronger, and avoid injury. We share our advice on avoiding a repetitive use sports injury and staying in the game.
If you look at any training guide, whether it’s to run your first 10k, increase your freestyle speed, or improve your tennis serve, chances are it’s going to include some cross-training. The reason so many athletes put time in at the gym outside of their sport is that cross-training and strength training help prevent all types of injuries, including repetitive stress injuries.
For example, if you know that you’re going to ask a lot of your knees, whether you’re training for a marathon or soccer season is about to start, working to improve the strength and flexibility in the muscles and connective tissue around your knees increases support and stability and helps manage joint stress.
Listen to your coach
Your coach — and sports medicine specialist — can help you fine-tune your form. Often, a minor adjustment to the hold of your racket or some physical therapy to address a muscle imbalance can make all the difference to your form, lowering your risk of injury. Dr. Absi can provide physical analysis and advice to help you make these changes to protect your body.
Warm-up and cool down
It’s so tempting to jump right into your workout or skip the cool down. But skipping these opportunities to take care of your muscles and connective tissue just sets you up for pain. Taking time to stretch your muscles, tendons, and ligaments — before and after activity — helps keep your joints supple and resistant to injury.
While you’re at it, why not add a yoga class once a week or so? Yoga helps you increase flexibility in your soft tissue and increase your overall awareness of your body, which can help you avoid injury and potentially improve your performance.
Take a rest day
We know you love your sport, but your body needs rest days. They’re critical to allowing your muscles and connective tissue to recover. Training and competing in your beloved sport is a great way to stay in shape, but taking at least one rest day every week gives your body the chance it needs to recover and be in top condition for the next go-around.
If you workout or train nearly every day, taking time away allows plenty of time for your stressed joints and muscles to rebuild and repair themselves. This time doesn’t even need to be a week of lounging on the beach. If you’re a daily runner, try swimming or golf. You not only learn a new sport but can get back to running stronger than ever.
Find your mind-body connection
Pay attention to your body. If something hurts, consider what your body is trying to tell you. Repetitive use injuries develop slowly and often give you warning signs before the pain becomes disruptive. If you notice pain in your knee when you run or a stabbing pain in your heel when you wake up, your body is telling you to take it easy. The longer you continue to train through the pain, the more likely you are to end up with a serious repetitive use sports injury.
If you’re looking for expert sports medicine services or have concerns about a repetitive use injury, call our office or make an appointment online. Dr. Absi can diagnose the root cause of your pain and provide personalized treatment and advice to get you off the bench quickly and safely.