There are only 2 types of sports people – those that have been injured and those that are going to get injured. If you participate in a sporting code for long enough (for some, even a short period of time) it’s inevitable that you will experience an injury of some sorts. Any injured athlete unable to train is not to be messed with. What sort of sports injuries are a commonplace in the swim/bike/run space and how do you avoid them?
The swim discipline is probably the one sport where related-injuries are pretty rare. They happen but in limited supply.
Common Swim Injuries
– Inflammation of the shoulders
• This could be a result from over-use or a sudden increase in swim mileage (those new to swimming)
• Often a zero (no swimming) to hero (lots of swimming) approach is the reason for this type of injury to occur
– Rotator-cuff Tendonitis/Tears
• This can result from an acute injury (fall or accident)
• Over-use in some other form of movement (lifting weights/throwing a ball for example)
• Or even the ageing process – the older we get, the more we experience this type of potential injury occurrence
– Shoulder Impingement Syndrome
• A weakness of the shoulder muscles – lack of upper body strength and conditioning
• Existing Tendon injuries that are prolonged (perhaps you played a contact sport in your youth and the swimming has now aggravated this long-term injury)
How do you avoid them?
– A proper swim technique is one area that can help void you from experiencing some of these injuries. An improper swim stroke, used over an extended period of time can result in a swim related injury. Work on the swim technique and build up your swim proficiency slowly (especially those very new to swimming)
– Strength Work – a strong upper body will definitely ensure less swim-related injuries. Any exercise that works the shoulders/back/neck and core muscles will go a long way to avoiding a swim injury. Try get in at least 2 x 30-minute sessions per week during peak season.
– Plenty of stretching (Swimmers need to have good flexibility in the shoulder and upper body area – a stretch routine done before and after each swim session (5-10 minutes at most) will definitely help.
– Last resort if you are already injured or showing symptoms of these type of injuries is the RICE method (rest/ice/compression/elevation)
Cycling is also one of those sports that don’t see too many related injuries. Cycling, in fact, is often used to rehabilitate injured sports people from the other disciplines.
Common Cycle Injuries
– Saddle Sores
• Long hours spent in the saddle can be a cause of this as well as incorrectly fitted cycle bibs-shorts and possibly be using the wrong saddle for you and/or the bike fit.
– Lower Back Pain
• Existing back problems may be aggravated by cycling and the body position it requires when seated on the bike.
• In-correct bike-fit and seating position.
• Lack of sufficient core strength – especially for the longer rides.
– Neck Pain
• Lack of general bike fitness (the newbies experience this when they first start out cycling – sitting in that position will put some additional stress on the neck muscles – the more you cycle – the less common it becomes.
• Improper Bike Position
– Knee Pain
• Carryover from the run discipline
• Cleat Position and Pedal Type can result in the onset of knee pain when cycling
– Foot Numbness
• Sometimes the cause of this can be hygiene, incorrect cycle shoes, and or bike-fit
• Previous or current Nerve Damage coming from the foot can result in foot numbness
– Hot Foot
• This is most common to the new and intermediate riders – the foot feels “hot” when you are cycling
• A condition where the nerves and joints near the ball of the foot are repeatedly squeezed by the bones which run through the feet to the toes. This gives you that feeling of the foot “over-heating”
How do you treat cycle injuries?
– Make sure you wear a good pair of cycle bib shorts or a trisuit that fits well. Finding the right fit is important – chamois cream can also be used as an additional remedy especially if the saddle sores persist * wearing cotton underwear along with the bib shorts – scoffed at by the true cycling connoisseur, might also help eliminate this condition.
– A gym-based core strength program (20-30 minutes of specific lower back exercises) will help alleviate some of those lower back problems when you are out cycling.
(Lowering the saddle height slightly and lifting the handlebars might help prevent this condition)
– Neck Pain can be alleviated by shortening the stem on your bike and shifting the saddle forward. Dropping the saddle height by 0.5-1cm might also help. Changing that “over” stretch position is what you are trying to accomplish with a few simple tweaks to the current bike set-up that you have.
– Make sure the cleats and pedals you use are suited to you. Some cyclists need a pedal system that has float (you are able to move the foot slightly from side-to-side whilst in the cleated-in position while others need a fixed pedal-cleat position (where the foot cannot move). This is something that will differ from person to person. If you experience knee pain while cycling only – try changing your cleats and pedals – lifting the saddle height by 0.5-1cm can also take the “load” off the knee’s to a certain degree
– Make sure you wear the correct cycle shoes – shoes too tight or too small can help contribute to that feeling of foot numbness and hot foot. Wear thinner socks may also help. Baby Powder used inside the socks especially in extremely hot conditions can result in better hygiene which might help – when it gets that bad, you will try anything.
Running is the one sport where sports injuries are most common. The further you run, the faster you run, the more chance you stand of experiencing some form of running-related injury.
Common running injuries
– Plantar Fasciitis
• This is caused by the inflammation to the plantar fascia ligament (largest ligament in the human body incidentally that comes from small micro tears in the ligament as it attaches to the heel bone. Sore when you start running – can warm-up during the run – sore again when you stop running and especially sore first thing in the morning when you wake up and start moving around
– Shin Splints
• The consistent pounding that comes from running causes the muscles to swell and this increases the pressure against the bone. That constant pounding will cause micro cracks in the bone that if not treated from the get-go – can result in a full-blown stress fracture
– Stress Fracture
• These occur over time (they don’t just suddenly happen). Overuse and that repetitive pounding when running might result in this type of injury. It is the one type of injury that you cannot “run through”. Big Run Mileage and perhaps a diet that is short of some of the vital nutrients will contribute to this extreme form of running injury.
– ITB (Iliotibial Band Syndrome)
• This is one of the most common run-related sports injuries
• Its a repetitive/overuse injury that is the most common cause of “runners knee”
• Caused by the Inflammation of the tissue – especially on the outside of the knee because of an excessively tight band – this injury will stop you in your tracks.
– Achilles Tendonitis
• Caused by intense and repetitive strain on the tendon that connects the calf muscle to the heel bone. The Achilles tendon is used when you walk, run, jump and push off your toes. Your mobility in general will certainly be curtailed when the Achilles Tendon flares up
– Knee Pain
• This can be caused by the irritation of the soft tissues/ lining and torn and worn cartilage of the knee.
How to avoid running injuries?
– Using the correct running shoes and getting the fit right from the start may alleviate some of the common run related injuries (Are you neutral/do you over pronate or under pronate?). A run shoe specialist or podiatrist can help you here.
– Gradually increase your run distances and the speed work that you do. This is especially relevant to the new runners – a sudden increase in mileage and speed can cause you injury related issues. A slow and steady build-up is the way to go.
– Complete Rest or other forms of cross-training (swimming and cycling) structured into your weekly and monthly running training program will take some of the load and stress that running creates off some of the joints/muscles and tendons – this keeps injury free for longer.
– A good diet – the body needs vital nutrients to keep it strong – the harder you train – the more your body may need to repair itself – additional supplements over and above the daily food intake may be required to off-set the occurrence of some of these run related injuries
As the saying goes “prevention is better than cure” – rather prevent and keep training than neglect and end up sitting on the sidelines.