Common Injuries in Fitness

By knowing the common injuries, their cause, and their treatment, you can avoid downtime in your fitness plan and increase the progress towards your fitness goals.

Most of the common injuries in fitness are caused by overuse. In a recent coaching seminar, Dr. Jim Rogers of Temple Sports Medicine stated that over 78% of school sports injuries originate from overuse. That’s significant.

To understand how to avoid overuse, we need to first understand the purpose of exercise to start with. Exercise should provide a moderate and gradual increase of stress to our skeletal muscle system.

This stress, when combined with rest, allows the muscles and cardiovascular system to strengthen and prepare to meet and exceed this stress-level when met again. That’s amazing!!

Think about it: If you stress a machine, it either returns to its original condition or it shows evidence of wear. Our bodies, if stressed moderately and allowed to rest, will get stronger!

So how much stress is too much? 

Ahhhh – that’s a perfect lead-in to overuse. In a world where “more” equals “better”, we often forget to let our bodies heal after they’ve been stressed.

Without rest, there is no re-building or re-strengthening. If you’re starting a running program, you want to gradually increase your mileage (10-15% increase per week) to allow your body to adapt. 

You may also want to have some down weeks in your schedule, in which you change the pace and try cross training or another type of workout. This will allow the muscles that have been stressed to take a back seat and allow other muscles to get stressed and re-built.

Overuse can lead to a variety of common injuries because we are not allowing time for our bodies to heal. Continued localized pain and soreness could be a warning sign that you need to lay off and rest that area of your body. Everyone is different, and you need to gauge what’s best for you.

If you take your resting heart rate first thing in the morning, and notice a 10+ beat per minute (bpm) increase above your normal range, this could be an indicator that you’re overtraining. If you’re overly irritable or sluggish, this could also be a warning sign that you need to take a day or two off.

The benefits of rest can not be overstated here – doing a hard workout on overly sore or damaged muscles, tendons, or ligaments could lead to an extended downtime due to injury. Pay attention to your body. Take small steps to get to your fitness goal – your patience will pay dividends.

Below are the types of the most common injuries encountered in fitness and sporting activities.

Common Fitness Injuries

  • Muscle Soreness  A soreness 1-2 days after a workout can be normal when exercising unconditioned muscles. A stiffness or soreness in these muscles can even persist for a week or more. Rest, ice, stretching, and extended warm-ups will aid in the repair of these sore areas. I’ve also found that massaging muscles after my long runs has sped up recovery and reduced soreness considerably.
  • Sprains  A sprain is a damaged ligament. Ligaments attach bones to adjacent bones. Damage to ligaments can occur through an accident, falling, or overuse. Sprains can range from overstretching and micro-tears in the ligament to complete tears in the ligament. Minor sprains are often treated with ice and extended rest, where as severe sprains require immediate medical attention and could involve surgical repair procedures.
  • Tendonitis  Tendons attach muscle to bones. Tendonitis is an injury to the tendon or the muscle, and one of the more common injuries in fitness. Mild tendonitis or muscle strains can be treated with rest, ice, and anti-inflammatory drugs to reduce swelling. In some cases, your doctor or physical therapist may prescribe an exercise routine that strengthens the supporting muscle groups to take the strain of the injured tendon. These routines often include an exercise that isolates the supporting muscle using low weight and high repetitions. With tendonitis in my right knee, I did leg lifts multiple times a day with ankle weights.
  • Contusions  A contusion is usually caused by a blow or strike to a muscle. This collision may cause swelling and bleeding and form a contusion. Normal muscle function and range of motion will be impacted as the blood coagulates and scar tissue forms in the impacted area. Treatment can consist of rest, ice, and a light muscle massage. Always consult the medical advice and treatment of a physician in the event of a serious injury.
  • Fracture  A fracture is a serious injury and involves a chip or break in the bone. A ‘stress fracture’, while also serious, is not a true fracture (stress fractures are discussed more on the page of common injuries for running). If not treated, stress fractures can become actual fractures of bones in the weakened area. Depending on the impacted bone, the treatment of a true fracture usually involves immobilization of the impacted area with a cast. Once the cast is removed, re-conditioning of the area could take months, as the area will be weakened and will need to be gradually introduced to increased work loads.

What do the types of common injuries above have in common? They’re largely preventable. Make sure that your fitness plan allows sufficient time for stress and rest. These ingredients will lead to your goal quicker than trying to accelerate the journey.  

For more information on common running injuries, such as stress fractures, shin splints, runner’s knee and others, click on the "Running Injuries" page below.

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