For an athlete, nothing is worse than an overuse injury. Not only is there discomfort, but there is also a feeling of frustration that comes as hard-earned fitness erodes. Among the worst injuries are stress fractures, patellar tendonitis, chondromalacia patella, plantar fasciitis, and iliotibial band syndrome. Poor technique or improper equipment selection and set-up may cause some of these injuries. Others can result from inherited biomechanical traits, such as flat feet. An improper balance between training workloads and rest is often what produces the injury. The best way to deal with injuries, regardless of type, is to prevent them. Don’t over-train, use proper technique, good equipment, ample flexibility, and sound muscular strength provide the best safeguards. Adequate recovery time following long or hard workouts is also necessary to stay injury-free. A day of rest should be added to your work-out schedule. If all of this fails and tenderness appears, immediate action must be taken. At the first sign of something becoming sore during a workout, cut back immediately and head for home at a leisurely pace. Don’t push through unusual discomfort thinking it will go away by itself. Pain is your body’s way of telling you “too much.” Should a suspected injury appear, here are the immediate steps to take:
- Rest the injured area. Stay off of it as much as you can. Don’t try to stretch it for the first 24 hours or test it with even limited activity. Let it rest.
- Ice it. Apply ice immediately at the first sign of an injury. This can be done with an ice pack (ice chest coolers or bags of frozen corn make great ice packs) or water frozen in a styrofoam or paper cup. With a frozen cup, massage the area gently. In either case, apply the ice for about 15 minutes at a time. Place a washcloth over the skin to prevent frostbite.
- Compress it. With some types of injury, such as a sprained ankle, wrapping an elastic bandage around the area snugly will help to control swelling. Be careful not to cut off blood circulation.
- Elevate it. Keep the injured extremity above your heart as much as possible. Again, this helps to control swelling. You might also try a topical treatments such as Aspercreme or Icy Hot. Research has shown the active ingredient in these products to be effective in delivering of anti-inflammatory medication to soft tissue injuries such as tendonitis and pulled muscles. If the injured area doesn’t respond to such treatment in the first five days, it’s time to see your doctor. For some injuries you may be referred to a specialist, such as a podiatrist, orthopedist, or physical therapist. Such as the Institute for Physical and Sports Therapy that specialize in sports injuries.