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Overuse Sports Injuries: Symptoms, Causes and Treatments

What kind of injuries are these?

Overuse injuries refer to those that are sustained from repeated action, such as repetitive strain injury, as opposed to acute injuries which can occur in an instant (e.g. sprained ankle).

This type of injuries are common in sports such as running, cycling or triathlons. Any form of sports or exercise causes a certain amount of stress. Your body adapts by thickening or strengthening the tissues involved. When these activities are done on the regular, the muscles get stronger, firmer, and sometimes larger. Tendons get stronger and bone density increases too.

However, problems occur when certain body parts fail to adapt. This kind of overload can cause microscopic injuries which can lead to inflammation – the body’s response to injury. The injury can eventually affect the bones, muscles, ligaments or tendons resulting in overuse injuries.


Common Overuse Injuries Include:

  • Anterior Knee Pain Syndrome (Runner’s Knee)
  • Rupture of the Achilles Tendon
  • Achilles Tendonitis/Tendinitis
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Chrondromalacia Patella
  • Calf Muscle Tear
  • Compartment Syndrome
  • De Quervain’s Tenosynovitis
  • DOMS (Delayed Onset of Muscle Soreness)
  • Femoroacetabular Impingement (FAI)
  • Greater Trochanteric Pain Syndrome
  • Hip Labral Tear
  • Meniscus Tear
  • Metatarsalgia
  • Muscle Strain
  • Olecranon Bursitis
  • Osgood Schlatter’s
  • Osteochondritis Dissecans
  • Patellar Tendonitis (Jumper’s Knee)
  • Poor Hip Core
  • Rotator Cuff Syndrome
  • Sacroiliac Joint Pain
  • Stress Fractures
  • Shin Splints
  • Sinding-Larsen-Johansson Disease

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Overuse injuries are highly likely to occur in individuals who take on too much physical activity too quickly. Training errors occur when they tend to go too fast, exercise for too long, or simply doing too much of one type of activity which eventually strains your muscles.

Improper technique can also take a toll on your body, particularly on the specific body parts at work. This happens when you maintain poor form or body mechanics when running, cycling or swimming. You overload certain muscles which may result in overuse injuries.

While athletes and sports-inclined individuals are more prone to overuse injuries, it can happen to anyone. Those with pre-existing medical conditions are at risk of experiencing this type of injury too. It is also highly likely to occur in older individuals, especially among those who fail to recognise the changes that aging has done to their body.

The initial intervention for overuse injuries include the R.I.C.E (rest, ice, compression and elevation). However, the goal of treatment in these situations is to control the pain, promote healing, prevent complications and restore normal use of the injured area. Professional assessment and guidance is necessary to properly address acute symptoms and to prevent their recurrence once you resume your usual exercises

Treatment options may include:

  • Medicine
  • Activity restrictions
  • Splint, Case, or Braces
  • Crutches or Wheelchair
  • Physical Therapy
  • Surgery
  • Knee Replacement
  • Partial or Compartment-Specific Knee Replacement
  • Computer Guided or Computer Assisted Knee Surgery (CAS)
  • Ligament Reconstruction
  • Complex or Primary Revision (Redo) Knee Replacement
  • Cartilage Regeneration
  • Arthroscopy or Keyhole Surgery for Sports Injuries of the Knee (ACL and Meniscal Injuries
  • Revision (Redo) Hip Replacement
  • Osteonecrosis or Avascular Necrosis of the Hip – Core Decompression and Cell Therapy
  • Hip Arthroscopy
  • Shoulder Arthroscopy (Keyhole)

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As the treatments vary across the board to accommodate what the patient needs best, the risks may vary for each individual. The range of variation will depend on the types of management.

Medications for instance, places a patient at risk for adverse effects. Activity restrictions and immobilization devices (splints or braces), on the other hand, may change the performance of a certain body part.

Surgery, albeit more aggressive and effective, holds several risks. Infection, bleeding, blood clots and an allergic reaction to anaesthesia are just some of the usual risks patients are exposed to. Damage to blood vessels or nerves which may result in numbing or sensory changes in the affected area is also a possibility. Your surgeon will discuss the possible complications with you before any operation.

For a patient to be a good candidate for surgery, he/she must be generally healthy. They must have a cardiopulmonary clearance (EKG and Chest X-ray) and a series of laboratory tests to ensure that there are no underlying conditions that may put them at risk for complications during or after surgery.

Patients must disclose any medications or supplements they are currently taking. Some drugs (Aspirin) and supplements (Vitamin E or Gingko Biloba) have blood-thinning properties which increases your risk for bleeding.

It is also important that patients avoid smoking or drinking alcoholic beverages at least 2-4 weeks prior to surgery. Kicking these habits will save you from potential complications during surgery and delayed wound healing.

It would also be wise for patients to prepare their leave and post-surgical home assistance before surgery. These are critical aspects which will help you get the needed rest and allow the surgical site to heal. Your surgeon will discuss these matters with you about your sports injury, but it is also important that you bring up other concerns during the consultation so that you will be prepared not only for surgery, but also for a successful recovery.

The best way to recover from overuse injuries is to adhere to activity restrictions. You may be asked to take a break from running, biking or training for that next triathlon, but you may be able to perform alternative training as long as it doesn’t stress the involved body part. Stretching and strengthening rehabilitation programs may also help to keep you in shape.

If you underwent surgical interventions to repair bones or tissues, proper rest is critical to your recovery. Home assistance will be a significant help because in some cases you may have to avoid certain movements or minimise them.

Surgery also comes with post-operative rehabilitation or therapy which requires your commitment to allow the injured area to heal properly, and to reintroduce movement to the affected structures more effectively.

Your strength, motion, balance, and flexibility will be checked to see how you are regaining it. Since patients have varied health conditions, complete recovery time will be different for everyone. The length of time for your recovery will also depend on the extent of repair that was done. So, when you return to your activity, make sure that you use the proper technique for timely healing and to avoid future injuries.

Pain is your body’s way of telling you that something is not right. Don’t just brush it off and risk the chance of compromising your movement and interupting your daily activities. Get it checked today for the right intervention the soonest possible time. Book your appointment with Dr. Dutton, here.

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