The Dangers of Overuse Injuries

It is very common for athletes to sustain an acute injury such as a concussion or a broken ankle. Or, they can develop an overuse injury such as a shin splint. Between these two scenarios, the latter puts athletes at greater risk. The first type of injury is referred to as acute injury. This type of trauma often results from a single event, like a fall or a hit. Overuse injuries, by contrast, develop over time as a result of repetitive strain on the tendons and joints. When left untreated, an overuse injury worsens and may cause complete debilitation.

At the outset, overuse injuries are hard to diagnose because the pain following repetitive microtrauma is not usually reported or may be overlooked by the athlete during the early stages of the injury. During the initial phase, minor aches and pains tend to be ignored due to minimal effects on the body's function. However, neglecting to report these can lead to the development of an injury, in which, in many cases, has resulted to severe trauma in the future. In worse instances, the injury has advanced too much that treatment may prove ineffective, or there are severe consequences.

Overuse injuries in the U.S.

Overuse injuries in the country are common both in children and adults who participate in sports on a nearly continuous basis throughout the year. According to industry experts, overall estimates of overuse injuries in comparison with acute injuries range from 45.9 percent to 54 percent. The occurrence of this type of injury varies by the kind of sport. A recent study stated that the prevalence ranges from 37 percent in skiing and handball players to 68 percent in runners. But the research indicates that the estimates may be in the low level.

In particular, shin splints, or medial tibial stress syndrome (MTSS), is a common injury in sports involving running. This disorder is a result of repeated trauma to the muscle tissue enclosing the shinbone, or the tibia. The condition is characterized by pain in the lower part of the leg, specifically between the knee and the ankle. Among the different forms of lower leg injury, shin splints is the most common, accounting for 13 percent to 17 percent of all running-related injuries. In children, sports injuries affect 3.5 million youth under the age of 14, and among middle and high school student athletes, half of them are overuse injuries.

Dangers of overuse injuries

The rise of overuse injuries, particularly in youth athletes, is a growing concern. Poor sports mechanics is the main cause for overuse injuries in children. Experts also point to sport specialization as another culprit in the prevalence of the troubling trend. Kids who play only one sport all throughout the year and at an earlier age put themselves at higher risk of developing long-term overuse injuries.  Adults who neglect the symptoms and continue to train excessively also subject themselves to health hazards with long-term effects. As opposed to acute injuries, overused injuries are very much preventable by regulating training, correcting training errors, and minimizing excessive workouts. 

Kids who continue playing using improper techniques can put continued pressure on their tendons, bones, and joints. Unless corrected, this will lead to overuse injuries such as shin splints. In professional athletes, excessive training, sudden increases in intensity, duration or frequency of practices and workouts all contribute to the development of overuse injuries. An overuse injury that is overlooked, training that is done extremely, or persistence of incorrect sports techniques may not only sideline an athlete. It can also bring in lifelong consequences, such as permanent damage in adults and stunt physical maturity in children.

Managing overuse injuries

The pain associated with overuse injuries can be alleviated in different ways: applying ice pack, taking pain relievers or ant-inflammatory medications, taking rest periods, and massaging the sore area and applying a pain cream such as MAXX Relief All Natural Pain Relief Cream. During the recovery period, it is ideal to consume substantial amounts of lean protein from skinless chicken breast, turkey, unsalted nuts, peanut butter, and protein shakes. In the event that the overused muscle does not respond to initial treatments, medical attention must be immediately sought.

Individuals who actively participate in sports must build a solid foundation of strength without jeopardizing overall fitness, particularly children, whose bodies have yet to fully develop. The American Academy of Pediatrics Council on Sports Medicine and Fitness recommends that children focus on multiple sports and play a single sporting activity to a maximum of five days a week. With adult athletes, it is vital to train smart and to know when to stop.



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