If you're an athlete or weekend warrior suffering with an athletic or sports injury, I'm going to describe seven of the most common reasons why athletic and sports injuries occur.
We're going to talk about how not warming up properly can cause an athletic or sports injury, how it all starts with the foot, and how wrong shoe wear or orthotics may be needed to help you overcome your injury. We'll talk about inadequate nutrition and rest, how not following a structured plan or training program can cause an injury. We'll even talk about the different traumatic injuries that athletes can endure.
We will then discuss biomechanics issues that occur, whether that be having back pain, knee pain, a foot and ankle pain. How when the biomechanics are off for the athlete, how they can become injured. Then, we talk about how strength training is so vital and important to an athlete's success to prevent a sports injury.
Sport Injury Cause #1: Not Warming Up Properly
In this first part of describing why most sports injuries occur, we're going to talk about not warming up properly. Before we dive into that, let's talk a little bit about why warming up is so important. Warming up is essential because it helps activate our nervous system. It then even increases blood flow to the muscle. But also then, gives us the stability and mobility that we need to do certain positions without injuring us and it warms up the connective tissues, so that we can reach these different motions and positions.
A few things that we commonly see at Back in Motion Physical Therapy & Performance for athletes is that they: Don't warm up at all and they're doing static stretching instead of dynamic stretching. Those are the big reasons and errors that we commonly see among our athletes.
We want to do dynamic stretches instead of static stretches. Dynamic stretches are things like skipping, lunging, twisting, and all these different functional movement patterns. These help increase our mobility. It activates our nervous system, and it's also going to help replicate some of the sport or athletic moves endure as an athlete.
Static stretching really isn't great for an athlete except when done before a workout or game. This is because it's going to diminish our power output, but it's also going to reduce some of the stability of the nervous system, which can cause an injury. Believe it or not, our nervous system is really important to controlling motion of our joints and muscles, and protecting the body. When we statically stretch, it shuts this mechanism off. That's why we typically don't want to static stretch prior to starting an athletic event or competition. Now, let's take a look at some of the different athletic dynamic stretches that you could and should be performing.
Sport Injury Cause #1: Not Wearing Proper Shoes or Shoe Inserts
The next common mistake that we see athletes do is that they're wearing the wrong shoes, or they're not wearing foot orthotics. It all starts with our feet. The feet are the foundation of a human body. If we're wearing shoes or cleats that are worn out or they don't fit our foot's needs, commonly, we'll see athletes compensate. This can cause things such as foot pain, knee pain, back pain, etc. This is really just going to alter their mechanics and throw them out of alignment, which is going to make them have to work harder and potentially set 'em up for further injury.
A few things that we see amongst the feed is things to look for is when we have a foot, there's two terms we want to talk about. The first is pronation and the second is supination. Typically, most athletes are in what they call a pronated position and that's where the arches are collapsed. This isn't a good position for the foot because then it causes the knees and hips to cave in, which then shuts off our muscles around the hip and our core muscles as well. This can be detrimental to an athlete and set ourself up for a failure when we're doing our running, cutting, jumping, twisting, and changing of direction.
Now, the second type of foot we commonly see is called the supinated or pes cavus foot, and that's where the arches are going to be really high. This type of foot is different than a pronated foot in that it can't absorb shock. You'll usually hear a patient or an athlete coming when they're running because they'll be clunking, clunking, clunking, and they don't have any shock absorption in their foot.
A lot of times, those forces go up through the system into the knees, the hips, or the back, and that patient can get back pain or any sort of knee injury as well.
Those are really the two things that we commonly want to be on the lookout for. If you've got high arch feet or flat feet, you want to make sure that you have the proper cleats, but you also may want to consider getting a foot orthotic to help you overcome or prevent a sports injury.
Sport Injury Cause #3: Improper Nutrition & Rest
The third that we commonly see amongst athletes and sports injuries is just inadequate nutrition and rest. We see a lot of athletes who come into the clinic that are eating McDonald's, Burger King, Chick-fil-A, and they're not putting the essentially vitamins and nutrients into their bodies.
Really, there's three things that you need. You need good fats. You need good protein, and you need good carbohydrates. A lot of those meals I just mentioned really just don't have that. They're fake carbs, and they're high in supersaturated fats, and just really aren't good for you, but there also really isn't much vitamins and minerals that the athlete needs to help their metabolic processes to recover in-between workout sessions or even in their sport.
The second thing is just rest. Most athletes aren't getting adequate rest. They're on Instagram late, or YouTube late at night, and they don't have a strict scheduled time that they're going to bed. As a result, they're not getting that adequate rest that they need to allow their bodies to heal and recover.
A few things that you can do to help you get adequate rest would be to go set up a schedule, where you go to bed at the same time. We want to make sure that you're sleeping in a cool room. Research shows that when you are in a cooler room, you're going to sleep better. But also, shutting down the electronics and then having the room dark. That also helps your sleep capacity as well. Those are the real things that we need to do from an athletic standpoint to allow for proper rest.
In regards to nutrition, you need to just do the basic things of drinking plenty of water, eating real food. Real natural food that we were given on this Earth. Don't eat things that are artificial. No sugars and sweeteners, and that type of thing. When you're shopping at the grocery store and you basically want to shop around the outside part of it, and that will showcase the majority of the foods that an athlete will need and things that aren't artificial, etc.
Those are the common ways that you can increase your nutrition and your rest to help you avoid a sports injury.
Sport Injury Cause #4: Improper Training Program
The next error that we see athletes make on a day-to-day basis is not following a structured training program. I can't stress this enough. Whether that be practice, or if you're in the off-season.
What happens is when we are on a structured training program, we can progressively elevate the athlete's fitness and strength and conditioning levels. When we do too much too soon, let's say we've got a spike in distance that we ran or weight that we lifted, or practice time, our injury rates are going to go through the roof and spike.
If you're a coaching reading this post or video, if you're an athlete or a parent, monitoring your athlete's progression and how much they're practicing, but also their strength and conditioning program is essential for them to overcome an injury. Because you can still do strength training and conditioning work. But if you're doing too much, too soon, you're also going to jeopardize that athlete and they're going to be injured as a result.
There really is a fine line and a progression that we want to take, when an athlete is trying to improve their fitness and performance levels, or even just as they're practicing as an athlete.
Sport Injury Cause #5: Trauma
The next most common reason why athletes get hurt is trauma, and a lot of this is outside of our control from a sports injury prevention side of things. The most common things that we see are obviously torn ligaments, tendons, or even a broken bone. Commonly this is in sports that include contact sports, like football, rugby, basketball, and that. Those are things that are outside of our control.
What I can tell you is that there are some specific measures that you can take to help prevent that. One would be just strength training. The stronger you are, the less likely your bones are going to break. The less likely you're going to tear a muscle, tendon, or ligament, too.
But also, like we alluded to in the last step here was adequate rest and nutrition. If the athlete has adequate rest and nutrition, chances are they're going to be less likely of injuring a tendon, ligament, or a bone.
Sport Injury Cause #6: Biomechanical Issues
The sixth reason why athletes get injured is the biomechanical issues. What I'm talking about that is basically they're moving improperly or inefficiently. In the case of a golf player and when they're going to swing the golf club, if they don't have adequate mobility of their hips or trunk, a lot of times what they'll do is they'll get shoulder pain because they're not rotating properly. They may even get lower back pain because they don't have mobility in their hips or their upper back, so they just torque at their back. That's really what we're talking about here in regards to a biomechanical error.
The same thing goes for a pitcher. If a pitcher is getting ready to pitch and they don't have enough motion at their hip when they're pushing off, they are then going to just compensate and use their elbow and arm, and they may have to get a Tommy John's surgery because they blew out their elbow or their shoulder.
These are the things we want to look at in regards to biomechanics from an athlete's standpoint. The same thing goes for a runner. If they don't have adequate mobility of their hip joints, their ankle or even in their upper back, they're going to compensate and get knee pain, plantar fascitis, et cetera, et cetera.
Sport Injury Cause #7: Lack of Strength Training
Last but not least, most sports injuries occur because of lack of strength training. A lot of times, injuries can be prevented with proper strength training.
Strength training is so vital to an athlete's success, even if you are in a more endurance-based sport because it's going to: A. Strengthen all your connective tissue, as I mentioned in the other parts of this post. B: it's going to strengthen the fascia. C: It's going to strength the muscle, the tissue around the nerves, the bone, and that's going to help you reduce your chances for an injury.
But it's also going to help you improve your performance level. It's going to help activate your nervous system, so that you can produce force. You're going to be stronger, faster, and also potentially bigger if your sport needs that.
Some of the common exercises that athletes need to perform in regards to strength training are just the basic things, and that would be doing bench presses, pushups, chin ups, squatting, dead lifting, Olympic lifting, step ups, and all the basic things. You don't need a fancy workout regimen, but you need just a structured workout regimen containing these core lifts. Over time, you're going to see adequate progress, not only in your strength and your performance, but also you're going to be less prone to a sports injury.
There you have it, the seven most common reasons why an athlete may become injured. If you do practice and address these seven things your athlete's chances of staying healthy will increase. If you're currently suffering from an injury and need professional help, you can click here to inquire about an appointment for an athletic injury at our Fort Myers, Estero, or Cape Coral Physical Therapy clinics or learn more about our sports physical therapy.