Protect, Prevent & Keep Moving: How to Return to Activity After an Injury

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Whatever the case might be, you got injured, and it can be frustrating.

Whether it’s an injured knee or wrist, injuries tend to limit your ability to do normal activities while you heal. Regardless if you’ve pulled, torn, broke or sprained a body part, there are a few steps to help you get back to activity once you’re cleared from your doctor.
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tennis injuries

Tennis Elbow and Beyond: A Closer Look at Tennis Injuries

tennis injuriesThe 2014 US Open starts today. One of the major stories prior to the start of the tournament is that Rafael Nadal is sitting this one out due to injury. At only 28, Nadal has already won 14 Grand Slam singles titles but his aggressive playing style has taken a toll on his body. Nadal has suffered from many different injuries — mostly to his knee and wrist — over his career; this is the fifth tournament in his career where he has been sidelined due to injury. It leads many to wonder if Nadal would be the greatest tennis player of all time if he could only get his body to cooperate.

Whether you are a professional tennis player or you play for fun, injuries can always occur and ruin your game. In honor of the US Open, let’s take a closer look at tennis injuries and how they can be prevented.

Common Tennis Injuries

Overuse is the most common reason for tennis related injuries. Approximately two-thirds of all tennis injuries occur because of overuse. The other third is due to sudden injury or an acute event.

Tennis Elbow

You know an injury is common when it is named after the sport where it frequently occurs. Lateral epicondylitis or tennis elbow, is a strain of the muscles and tendons in the elbow through repetitive motions. Tennis players can get tennis elbow by practicing their backhand swing repeatedly.

Shoulder Injuries

Swinging a tennis racket and firing off a powerful shot can put a great deal of stress on your shoulders. Tennis players often suffer from shoulder injuries.

Rotator cuff injuries are common. The rotator cuff helps position your shoulder in the socket. If you have a weak rotator cuff, it can cause irritation in the socket tissues as it moves around. This can lead to inflammation in the tendon or the bursa (Shoulder Bursitis), causing pain when you swing your racket overhead.

Lower Limb Injuries

Tennis is a full body workout and players must sprint from one side of the court to the other. The sudden pivot as a player takes off can put stress on the knee joints, tendons and ligaments resulting in knee injuries.

Any sport that requires running has the risk of ankle injuries. A sprained ankle is one of the most common tennis injuries. Even the greats like Roger Federer and Andrew Murray have suffered sprained ankles.

Preventing Tennis Injuries

With any sport, proper training and condition is crucial to injury prevention. This means warming up before a match as well as maintaining your fitness even in the offseason. Tennis is a fast paced sport that requires not just muscle strength but also endurance. You need to be able to sprint back and forth, backwards and forwards, throughout the match.

When strength training, focus on the shoulder muscles to help prevent rotator cuff injuries. Strengthen and stretch the wrist and forearm muscles to prevent tennis elbow, as these tend to absorb the most impact from the ball hitting your racket. Work on your core and back to further reduce the chance of injury.

For tennis, technique is extremely important not just to win but also to extend your career by reducing the risk of injury. Make sure you have the proper form for each type of swing. That said; try not to repeat the same swing too many times in a row. Mixing it up helps prevent overuse injuries but is also more in line with how a match will be played.

In addition, make sure you have the right equipment. Pay attention to the grip size of your racket. Make sure your footwear is supportive. If you are experiencing even minor pain, consider taping the area or wearing a brace for added support.

Sources:

http://www.stopsportsinjuries.org/tennis-injury-prevention.aspx

http://www.physioworks.com.au/Injuries-Conditions/Activities/tennis-injuries

Cheerleading: The Most Dangerous Sport

cheerleading squad stunt

When you think of sports injuries, full contact sports like football probably come to mind. However, one of the most dangerous sports in terms of serious injury is not football, soccer, or basketball…it’s cheerleading.

Cheerleading has become so much more than shouting encouraging phrases from the sidelines. Modern day cheerleading features amazing feats of gymnastics and flexibility along with dance and of course, stunts. A basket toss can send a cheerleader flying 20 feet in the air, only to land in the arms of her teammates, if everything goes right. It’s not hard to see how cheerleading can be dangerous.

Even with human pyramids, choreographed gymnastic passes and more, some might not even consider cheerleading a true sport; in fact the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) does not even include it in their list of sponsored sports. But it doesn’t change the fact that from 1980 to 2013, cheerleading injury rates went up 440%. While compared to other sports, the overall number of injuries is actually low. However, cheerleading injuries are often much more severe, making up 50-66% of catastrophic injuries in female athletes. A catastrophic injury is defined as a severe injury to the spine (including the spinal cord) or brain and may also include skull or spinal fractures.

Most Common Injuries

Cheerleading injuries affect all areas of the body. The wrists, shoulders, ankles, head, and neck are most commonly injured.  Sprains account for more than half of all cheerleading injuries. While ankle sprains are most common, sprains can also occur in the knees, wrists, neck and back.

Back injuries are also common in cheerleading, largely from tumbling and stunts. Back injuries can be caused by twisting and rotating in stunts or tumbling passes and from lifting, catching, or falling during stunts.

Concussions are also becoming increasingly more common in cheerleading. With more evidence of the damage head injuries like concussions can cause, there has now been a heightened awareness of cheerleading related injuries overall.

Prevention

Some of the causes for cheerleading injuries are lack of training (especially with stunts) lack of conditioning and that there is no protective gear for the sport. The best way to avoid injury is to prevent them from happening.

Stunt restrictions

It’s no surprise that stunting causes the most serious injuries in cheerleading. Stunting accounts for 42-60% of all cheerleading injuries. In addition, 96 percent of concussions and head injuries in cheerleading are caused by stunts. Without the proper training on how to toss and catch the flyer, along with practice, these injuries will continue to occur.

Other stunting restrictions include height restrictions in human pyramids to keep them level and increasing the number of spotters during aerial stunts. Mats should always be used during practice, as cheerleading is one of the only sports where more injuries occur during practice than in competition.

Trained coaches

The lack of recognition of cheerleading as a sport has lead to a lack of qualified coaches. Often, coaching is done by a member of the school’s faculty who may not have any experience with cheerleading, or at least not some of the more physically demanding aspects of it. At a minimum, a cheerleading coach should know proper stunt technique, should always supervise practice and should be able to identify the symptoms of serious injury like concussion.

Conditioning

Like any other sport, proper training and conditioning can help prevent injury. First and foremost, stretching before practice and competition can loosen the muscles and help prevent strains, sprains and pulls. Yoga or Pilates can also help cheerleaders improve flexibility.

Strength training can also help prepare muscles for lifting either your body weight or a teammate during stunts. Special attention should be paid to strengthening the back and shoulders are well as the core muscles to help reduce the risk of injury.

Sources:

Wrist Braces for Snowboarders

A few weeks ago we wrote about the importance of wrist protection for snowboarding. As that article mentions, it’s been proven that wearing a wrist brace while snowboarding significantly lowers your odds of wrist injuries while snowboarding. Here’s one of the top wrist braces we recommend for snowboarding:

DonJoy Wrist Wraps – This wrist brace allows your hand to freely move around. It won’t get in the way, but still provides ample protection for the wrist during sports and job-related wrist activities. DonJoy Wrist Wraps are also very comfortable to wear and easy on the wallet.

One of the biggest complaints from first-time or beginner snowboarders is how much their wrists hurt from the constant falling whether its getting off the lift or trying to make it down the bunny slopes.  For most people, the first instinct when falling is to brace yourself with your wrists.  Unfortunately, this creates a lot of impact on the wrists and you can end up straining, spraining and even fracturing your wrist.  Wearing a wrist brace can help absorb some of that impact and prevent injury.  Even seasoned snowboarders tend to land on their wrist when they are about to fall.

More important than just protecting your wrists when you snowboard is learning how to fall safely and properly so that you lower the risk of hurting yourself.  Instead of trying to break your fall with your hand or wrist, use your forearms.  Your forearms provide a larger platform to land on and to absorb impact.  This will also protect your wrists which are more prone to injury.  If you must land on your wrist, make your hand into a fist so that your wrist does not get hyperextended.

If you are falling in a direction where are you unable to land on your forearms, try to fall on the side of your body as a whole.  Similar to landing on your forearms, the larger the area you allow to absorb the impact, the better chances you have of not letting a weaker part of your body take the bulk of the impact.  If you find yourself falling backwards, take notice to bring your chin to your chest to avoid hitting your head on the ground.  Concussions, neck, and head injuries are by far one of the most dangerous injuries and can be catastrophic.

If you find yourself with a wrist injury, make sure you R.I.C.E.

Rest:  take a few runs off depending on the severity of your pain and injury or stop all together.

Ice:  Cold therapy will help reduce swelling and inflammation.  There are wrist ice packs that are sized specific for the wrist area.

Compress:  Immobilize the area and compress with a wrist brace to help stabilize and reduce swelling.

Elevate:  Keep your wrist rested above your heart to help reduce swelling.

Take the precaution to protect your wrists and yourself from other common snowboarding injuries this season and enjoy the slopes!

Jumper’s Knee

We take this opportunity to have Dr. Kevin McIntyre of Burlington Sports Therapy introduce Jumper’s Knee.

Jumpers knee is a common term used to describe an overuse injury to the patellar tendon.  The technical term for this tendon injury is patellar tendinosis or patellar tendinopathy and is estimated to affect 45% of elite volleyball players.

So how do we apply our newest understandings of “Jumper’s Knee” to the athlete at risk? If a coach or trainer notices any of the above findings in one of their athletes they should be urged to try a soft landing technique, bending both the ankles and knees as much as possible to absorb the force of landing. If symptoms are present, frequency and intensity of jumping may need to be reduced. Supporting the patellar tendon with a brace to help alleviate pain. Of course, we always recommended that you consult with a doctor so that your condition can be diagnosed prior to any treatment.

According to the most current literature, patellar tendinosis is largely due to the eccentric load placed on the patellar tendon. That is, the tendon is lengthened under load when lowering for a jump and when bending the knee upon landing. (For an explanation of “eccentric contraction” please refer to our previous post about the prevention of hamstring strain). According to a study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, athletes who experienced patellar tendinosis had a tendency to land with a lesser degree of ankle and knee joint flexion on initial impact. That is, they didn’t bend their knees or ankles during landing to the extent of other athletes. The study also found that the rate at which the knee is forced into flexion upon landing may be a risk factor in the development of patellar tendinopathy.