Overuse injuries can be a real problem for athletes. It is hard when you cannot get on the field because of a nagging ailment.
An overuse injury happens when the demands placed on a joint are too much for it to handle. Muscles, bones, tendons, and ligaments all provide support for the joints. Any of these can get injured due to overuse. The severity can differ depending on how bad.
Demands on a joint could be one specific bout of high intensity force, or too many bouts of a lower intensity force. This is the difference between shin splints and an ACL tear. Too much pounding on the lower leg can lead to shin splints but one big traumatic event will tear an ACL.
Injuries are not preventable but we can reduce the risk of them. The following methods are the best ways to reduce the risk of an overuse injury.
- Take some time off
One way to reduce the risk of overuse is to take a break. If you are a soccer player that plays year-round, then you never have any time away from those demands. The body does not get enough chances to recover and heal so eventually something must give.
Do you wonder why baseball players have as many shoulder issues now than in the past? Little league shoulder was not a thing before. Pitchers throw more than ever. There is no off-season. They do not get the chance to regenerate, until they potentially get hurt.
Overuse results in these injuries.
Participating in different activities is really beneficial. I also like to consider performance training to almost serve the purpose of a different sport. It is even more helpful when you can choose sports that are not closely related.
Switching it up from soccer to basketball and then lacrosse really ends up being the same type of patterns. Soccer to hockey to baseball would be very different sports.
- Train for strength
If an injury happens when the demands placed upon the joint are too much for it to handle, we have two options. One is to reduce the amount of loading (point 1). The other is to increase the amount of force a joint can handle.
Strength training is the best way to build this resiliency. Most strength training is only thought of in terms of force production. How much can you squat? That is force production.
What often gets forgotten about is how much force strength training allows us to absorb. The lowering portion of that squat is eccentric muscle action. Good eccentric strength allows us to handle and withstand a lot of force. Muscles are strongest eccentrically.
- Improve your technique
Bad speed and agility technique can contribute to overuse injuries. When the joints are not in proper alignment they become weak since they lose stability. This decreases the amount of force that they can withstand.
If you can train to improve the positions that you get into when sprinting and changing direction then you will not only move quicker, you will also reduce the loading on the joint.