April 19, 2023

Tips to Prevent Overuse Injuries in Sports and Activity

Many sports or activity injuries are caused by overuse – putting repetitive stress on the body and performing the same activity over and over. These injuries are typically from errors in training or technique, sudden increase in intensity or duration or not taking time off of organized sports or activities. The following tips can help prevent common causes of overuse injuries and keep you in your favorite activities.

Take at least one month off out of the year from organized sports. Not only will this allow for a physical and mental break, but it helps to avoid burnout. Overuse injuries are commonly seen in children specializing in a single sport too soon. Taking a break in training allows your muscles the opportunity to recover and reduces risk for injury.

Gradually increase intensity and duration of exercise when starting new activities. Poor training or conditioning or changing the intensity or duration of physical activity too quickly can lead to an overuse injury. Plan ahead and don’t compress a week’s worth of activity into a couple days. Instead, gradually increase intensity and duration of exercise when starting new activities. If pain occurs during activity, stop instead of pushing through the pain.

Maintain adequate caloric intake to avoid stress fractures. A stress fracture, most commonly seen in weight-bearing bones (lower leg and foot), is often caused by overuse and repetitive force. The repetitive stress on the body causes muscle fatigue that can eventually affect the bone, causing a tiny crack. Active individuals should ensure that they are maintaining adequate caloric intake from whole foods to avoid stress fractures. Recommended foods include lean meats, fruits, vegetables and healthy fats, such as yogurt, nuts and eggs. They should also make sure they have normal levels of calcium and vitamin D.

Hydrate. When your body isn’t properly hydrated, muscles become tense, increasing the risk of muscle cramping, tears and strains. Drinking water throughout the day, especially if you feel thirsty, can minimize risk of injury. Approximately two liters of water is recommended per day, but varies by person and activity level.

Use the right equipment and learn the right technique. Wearing proper shoes and gear are easy ways you can protect yourself from injury. Many serious injuries can be avoided by wearing the appropriate protective gear, such as helmets, padding and facemasks. Additionally, make sure the equipment is in good condition and fits properly.

Warm up and cool down. Taking time to warm up before activity increases your heart rate and blood flow, loosens your muscles and may help reduce muscle soreness after activity. Cooling down after a workout reduces the build-up of lactic acid in muscles, regulates your heartrate and brings body temperature and blood pressure back down to their normal levels. Aim for at least 30 minutes of activity per day.

What to do if you experience an injury

If you experience an injury or sudden pain, treatment often starts with the RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation) method to reduce swelling and relieve pain. Most importantly, listen to your body. While delaying your training or activity may put you behind your immediate goals, it will serve you better in the long run as you can help prevent a more serious, long-term debilitating injury.

Whether you’re a weekend warrior or professional athlete, overuse injuries are possible. At CIO, we understand how important it is to return to activity after injury and perform at the same level. For pain that persists, visit our Walk-In Clinic for sudden injuries or call 800-622-6575 to schedule an appointment.