Many common injuries are preventable. Most injuries fall into two categories: traumatic injuries and overuse injuries.
Traumatic injuries are injuries that occur suddenly like getting hit at the side of the knee in football or getting slide tackled in soccer. Some of these injuries are not avoidable, but the likelihood of them can be reduced through proper strength and conditioning. The stronger the muscles around a joint, the more likely you will be able to protect the joint in adverse situations.
Overuse injuries are injuries that come on slowly over time like tendonitis. These injuries are caused by repetitive stress that breaks down the affected tissue over time. But what is overuse? Overuse can simply mean that you are demanding more of your body than it is conditioned for, and you are not allowing proper recovery before stressing your body again with the same level of exercise.
The natural process of exercise is to stress our bodies and cause minute damage to our muscles and tendons, followed by a proper recovery time to allow our bodies to repair that damage. Our bodies are very smart and adaptable. When we repair ourselves from that minute damage, we fortify the tissue to be able to tolerate that same level of exercise without breaking down again. This is how we become stronger and more “fit”. But without a proper balance of recovery and exercise, we begin to continuously breakdown our tissues more rapidly than we can repair. In this case, we begin to experience pain as opposed to the typical muscle soreness that we are all familiar with after a good workout. This type of overuse injury is easy to recover from. All you need to do is take time off from the exercise that caused it and rest. Sooner or later, your body will repair the damage, and you will be able to move on as long as you don’t “overdo it” again.
But what about the chronic injury that never seems to get better with rest or keeps coming back time and time again? How many times have you been told to rest or reduce your activity level only to experience the same pain when you begin training again?
Overuse injuries can also occur because of poor body mechanics. Many overuse injuries are caused when one area of the body is compensating for another part of the body that is not functioning properly.
Strength and conditioning expert Mike Boyle wrote: “The body works in an alternating pattern of stable segments connected by mobile joints. If this pattern is altered, dysfunction and compensation will occur.” Knee pain is a good example. The knee joint is a joint that is supposed to provide stability to the leg when we move. The hip is responsible for mobility. If the hip is tight and does not have a full range of motion available to it to perform a specific task, such as running or squatting, then the knee is forced to become excessively mobile. This excessive mobility forces the muscles around the knee to become “overused” to perform the activity and will become more susceptible to breakdown and injury. If you do not correct the mechanics of the hip, the knee will continue to compensate and be more susceptible to injury. Rest and conservative treatment of the knee will alleviate the symptoms but will not fix the cause of the injury. When you resume the activity that caused the injury, the injury will occur again.
Another example is plantar fasciitis. The foot is designed to provide stability to the kinetic chain of the lower body, and the ankle should provide mobility. If the ankle lacks mobility, the foot will become mobile, causing excessive stress to the plantar fascia.
If you have a chronic injury that has not been resolved by rest and conservative treatment, you may need to be evaluated for mechanical imbalances somewhere other than the site of your symptoms. Once you have identified the functional imbalance, you will not only be able to finally get over your injury, but you may also unlock a whole new potential for performance in what ever it is that you are training for.