How to prevent common exercise injuries

Torn ligament. Traction muscle. Excessive injury. With every new exercise routine comes a new risk of injury, whether it’s straining a muscle while lifting, developing knee pain from running, or tearing a tendon during exercise. With an estimate 8.6 million sports and recreation related injuries every year in the United States, these fears are not unfounded.

Before you let this fear stop you from starting a new exercise routine, though, the good news is that the majority of sports injuries are “related to overuse, rather than trauma. , which means they usually don’t require surgery,” says Dr. Matava, an orthopedic surgeon and sports medicine physician at Washington University in St. Louis.

With the right precautions, you can develop a well-rounded exercise routine, one that maximizes benefits while minimizing the risk of injury. To understand the exercises that make you especially vulnerable to injury, we reached out to a mix of sports doctors, physiotherapists and sports coaches for their consensus. about the most common mistakes people make and how to prevent them.

The deadlift — in which the lifter begins in a squatting position, pulling the barbell to an upright, locked position — is one of the most iconic Olympic lifts. However, its simplicity is deceiving. Cameron Apt, an athletic trainer at the University of Rochester, says: “The deadlift is one of the best tools, if done right, and one of the most dangerous things you can do if done wrong. .

One of the big mistakes people make is rounding – or stooping – back. Deadlift begins with the lifter in a squatting position, with a neutral spine, meaning that the back is neither too arched nor round, from there pulling the weight up to the thighs. During this movement, even a slight rotation of the spine can put excess pressure on the muscles in the lower back, potentially pushing the back out or worse.

“It’s not that everyone is in bad shape, it’s that people underestimate how stuck a dynamic exercise can be,” says Femi Betiku, a physiotherapist at Riverdale Physical Therapy Center. highly concentrate. “They weren’t paying attention for a split second, and then they turned around for a bit, and then ‘BOOM!'”

For the less experienced, there are a number of alternative exercises that can provide similar benefits and put less stress on the lower back. This includes hex bar elevatorwhere the wide hexagon bar surrounds the lift rod to relieve pressure on the lower back.

For those who want to deadlift, it is essential to pay attention to form. When working with beginners, Mr. Apt will often let clients do exercises without weights. “We would see people for weeks before we gave them a weight to move with,” he said.

You also need to listen to your body and make adjustments as needed, especially if fatigue begins to affect your form. “There is nothing wrong with promoting fatigue,” says Dr. Betiku. “It’s all about being aware that ‘I’m tired, I have to be 100% focused on my performance.'”


When most people think of lifting weights, the first thing they probably think of is a bench press, where the lifter lies on a bench, pressing the weight upwards. The very iconic bench press that comedians from Chris Farley until YouTube star Mike Tornabene used it to make fun of bodybuilders. But it can cause rotator cuff injury if done incorrectly.

The rotator cuff is especially vulnerable because a lot of tendons, ligaments, blood vessels, and nerves travel through a narrow pathway, called the subsonic space, between the shoulder blade and the shoulder blade. “It’s this very small gap that’s almost like a road,” says Lauren Shroyer, an athletic trainer with the American Council on Exercise who specializes in chronic injuries.

A common mistake is arching your shoulders up, almost like slouching in a chair, which can put a lot of stress on this area. This can lead to occlusion syndrome, a painful condition caused by the shoulder blades rubbing against the rotator cuff, Ms Shroyer said. The same thing can happen if you lift the barbell over your head, not your chest. To avoid this, she says, make sure your arms are shoulder-width apart, shoulder blades together, and lower the barbell to mid-chest.

Another common problem is lifting too quickly, which can lead to acute injury, such as a tear in the pectoral muscle. When this happens, lifters will often feel a twinge, lose weight control, and at this point “one nipple points in one direction and the other nipple in another,” says Dr. Matava. “We’re going to see that a lot,” he adds, often in inexperienced lifters who try to lift more weight than they’re willing to.

Thoracic tears are profuse and tend to occur when body weight is lowered into the ribcage. While losing weight or your body may find the exercise easier, it also poses a higher risk of injury because the muscles both contract and lengthen. Michael Maloney, a sports medicine physician and orthopedic surgeon at the University of Rochester, says the risk of this injury is also increased because lifters feel like the hardest part is done and less focused. . Other examples of this type of risky movement are lowering the barbell to the ground while deadlifting, walking or running down hills, lowering the body while pulling up, or bringing the torso back to the ground while sitting up. To avoid this, try to stay focused throughout the entire exercise.

In his own clinical practice, Dr. Matava regularly treats weightlifting and running injuries. “Of the two, I probably see running the most,” he said. The majority of these injuries are related to overuse. “As for running, that’s the rule,” says Dr. Matava. “Too many miles, too many hills, too little rest.”

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A very common problem among runners is knee pain, specifically pelvic pain syndrome, often referred to as “runner’s knee”. Athlete’s knee is thought to be nerve-irritated due to a muscle imbalance between the quadriceps, hamstrings, and hip muscles that dislocates the kneecap. To prevent this, gradually increase your mileage and incorporate regular strength training. The good news is that although athlete’s knee is a problem, research shows that running can serve strengthen the cartilage of the kneewith runners having a lower risk of arthritis than their non-runners.

Another common overuse injury among runners is a stress fracture. This often happens when runners try to add too many miles too quickly without taking enough rest days. The impact of running causes micro-cracks in the bones, which, when given time to heal, lead to stronger bones. However, if the athlete starts running more miles without taking a day off, these micro-cracks will form to the point of injury.

Both of these injuries tend to happen because runners “have done something out of the ordinary than they were trained to do,” says Dr. Usually, he will see such stress cracks in people who are just starting out or those who decide to ramp up their workouts quickly. A general rule of thumb is to limit the number of kilometers increased to less than 10 percent a week.

One of the most common sports-related acute injuries is a cupped tearwhich at least 10 percent people will experience throughout their lives. The meniscus are discs of cartilage that act as shock absorbers, located at the end of the femur and shinbone. Most tears are caused by cartilage degeneration, which makes the cartilage more susceptible to injury, and can occur with squatting or twisting movements, such as box jumping, squatting with weights, or during sports like tennis, football and basketball.

Meniscus tears often occur during vigorous exercise. The risk of injury increases when these movements are performed too quickly, too hard, or not practiced enough. With squats, for example, if a person is “too heavy and down too deep, the meniscus can tear,” says Dr. Matava.

As with other injuries, the risk increases towards the end of a workout, when fatigue begins to set in. Miss Shroyer learned this lesson the hard way when she pushed herself too hard. “I felt tired, but I said to myself, ‘You can do another set,’” she said. Instead, she suffered a meniscus tear at the end of her femur, an injury that required surgery and was immobilized for six weeks.

When it comes to progress in the gym, there’s a tension between pushing yourself to be better and pushing yourself to injury. Shroyer’s advice is to focus on the idea that “next week, I can do more, because I’ve allowed myself time to recover,” she says. When it comes to a workout routine, she recommends combining consistency with a gradual process.

“I always encourage people to do something they are confident in,” Ms. “Take it slow but do it by all means. Exercise can put someone at risk for injury, but not exercising puts someone at risk for poor health.”

Rachel Fairbank is a freelance science writer living in Texas.

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