The most common injuries during your physical activities
Spring has sprung – and with it comes a host of new health and fitness goals!
As the temperature rises, there’s nothing quite like taking up (or resuming) our favourite sports activity to get back into shape. That said, this time of year remains crucial in terms of avoiding injury.
In winter, many of us slow down, or even completely stop being active. Therefore, it’s important to resume physical activity gradually, to prevent aches and pains or more serious issues.
Here’s an overview of some common injuries in four sports that many people resume once spring arrives, along with a few tips to avoid them entirely.
Undoubtedly the least expensive fitness activity, running is definitely a must if you want to get back into shape while enjoying the milder weather. Some common running injuries include:
Plantar fasciitis: an irritation of the fascia beneath the foot, which causes a sharp burning pain in the heel and under the arch.
Shin splints: an inflammation of the tendons attached to the tibia (shin bone) resulting from too much stress, which causes pain on the inner part of the shin bone.
Achilles tendonitis: an inflammation of the tendon that connects the calf to the heel, generating piercing pain that can quickly become chronic.
To avoid these injuries:
First and foremost, it’s extremely important to resume running gradually, and to seek help from a health professional as soon as pain or injuries appear. There are a wide variety of factors to consider in running, including your specific fitness goals, training schedule, running surface, footwear, and many more.
To minimize injury risk, you should turn to a physiotherapist who can guide you, based on your individual needs and objectives, as your training sessions intensify. A physiotherapist can also assess your running form, provide advice on your gait, and offer specific exercises for your condition to reduce your risk of injury. Some resources, like those on the Running Clinic website (therunningclinic.com) can also help you gradually return to running, or take up the sport for the first time.
This increasingly popular sport can be practiced either indoors or outdoors. There are two main types of climbing: top-roping and bouldering. While this activity works all muscle groups, it is most demanding on the upper body. Common climbing injuries include:
Tendinitis of the elbow: lateral epicondylalgia, commonly referred to as “tennis elbow,” is an inflammation of the forearm tendons that originate on the outside on the elbow. This condition causes sharp pain in this area, primarily when you use your hands.
Finger pulley injuries: an irritation or tear of the finger pulleys (small circular bands that hold the finger flexor tendons together) caused by the high forces used in the various climbing hand holds. The pulleys may become overtaxed, which generates pain in the palm of the fingers and limits their range of motion.
Rotator cuff tendinopathy and shoulder impingement: climbers must often remain in positions with their shoulders above their head for prolonged periods of time; as a result, they are at risk for developing shoulder pain. This type of pain is often caused by deficits in motor control (weak rotator cuff and scapular muscles), lack of strength, poor posture or a tight shoulder musculature.
To avoid these injuries:
If you are new to this activity, it’s crucial that you take up climbing in a gradual way. It’s also important to avoid grabbing onto the hand holds if you should lose your footing. This habit will limit overexertion of upper body joints, notably the fingers and wrists. Another good way to prevent overtaxing your fingers is to vary your hold techniques.
Should pain or discomfort arise, see a health professional like a physiotherapist to prevent your condition from deteriorating. Some physiotherapists specialize in treating and assessing climbing injuries, further enriching your visit.
Whether you use the pool at your community centre, the local park or in your own back yard, swimming is an excellent fitness activity that deeply strengthens and tones the body with minimal impact on your joints. Some common swimming injuries include:
Shoulder problems: shoulders are heavily taxed in swimming. As a result, shoulder pain and cracking/clicking may gradually occur in swimmers. These symptoms may indicate the onset of an impingement (pinching of the shoulder tendons), of tendonitis (inflammation of one or more shoulder tendons) or of bursitis (inflammation of the bursa).
Lower back issues: maintaining postures where the back is repeatedly bent can result in lower back pain. These issues are more common among inexperienced swimmers.
To avoid these injuries:
First, we recommend alternating your strokes (breast, freestyle, butterfly, etc.) as much as possible to avoid overworking the shoulders. It’s also best to properly rotate the trunk to match your arm movements, rather than twisting and overextending the lower back. Should pain persist, a visit with a physiotherapist or osteopath is highly recommended. These professionals will assess the afflicted area and offer you exercises to treat your specific condition.
Finally, taking swimming lessons with a trained instructor can also help ease you into this sport.
Whether practiced as a leisure activity or as competitive training, cycling remains a universal sport with minimal impact on the joints.
The most common cycling injuries include:
Iliotibial band syndrome (ITBS): caused by repetitive bending/extending movements, this syndrome involves considerable friction of the large fascia (iliotibial band) on the bony prominence on the side of the knee, resulting in a burning sensation in this area.
Lower back issues: lower back pain may appear due to an improper sitting position while cycling. It can also be exacerbated if your bike seat is too high or incorrectly angled.
Fracture of the clavicle: A common cycling injury after a fall, this condition is characterized by intense pain and an obvious deformity of the collar bone. Immobilizing this area for four weeks is usually enough to heal this injury.
To avoid these injuries:
Wearing a protective helmet is strongly recommended to minimize the after-effects of a fall. We also suggest you avoid pedaling too vigorously to limit irritation to the knees. Excluding falls, most cycling injuries are linked to poorly-adjusted bicycle components (seats, handlebars, or pedals). A brief consultation with an in-store expert, or preferably with an occupational therapist, can make a real difference.
In closing, whether you plan to run, climb, swim or cycle, practising any physical activity has an inherent risk of injury. However, you can avoid aggravating minor discomforts by listening to your body and recognizing the signs and symptoms of certain pathologies. Remember that warm-ups are a crucial step before engaging in physical activities, regardless of whether you are new to the sport or a seasoned participant.
And finally, in the event of pain or injury, always seek the support of a healthcare professional.
By Florence Arscott-Gauvin, physiotherapist, Clinic Physiothérapie Universelle Pointe-Claire
Arscott-Gauvin, Florence. Physiothérapie Universelle blog: The most common injuries during running. https://physiotherapieuniverselle.com/en/blogue/common-injuries-running, 2018.
Dion, Sébastien. Natation: tout savoir sur les bienfaits et les blessures les plus fréquentes. https://oppq.qc.ca/blogue/natation-les-bienfaits-et-les-blessures/, OPPQ (in French only).
Dubois, Blaise, B.SC. Les blessures fréquentes en course à pieds, The Running Clinic, 2017 (in French only).
Washatka, Jonathan. Common climbing injuries: how they happen. https://sportrock.com/common-climbing-injuries/, Sportrock, 2018