Spring Sports and Track Injuries
Spring is trying to poke its head through the mounds of snow we still have, and spring sports are in full swing. I always laugh to my self that 1st week after track starts, because I get about a million “sore” athletes in my room. My first response to the kids is “how much did you prepare for the season before practice started?”, and they almost always respond “wait, what?”. There is a fine line between being sore, and being injured, and trying to explain that is one of the most difficult things about my job.
Muscle soreness is a normal occurrence when you start an activity that your body isn’t used to. In softball, an outfielder might have a sore arm after the first week of practice, because throwing isn’t an “every day” normal ROM. Your body needs to adapt to the motions you are putting it through, and muscle soreness comes with that.
It is important to start some light training, and strengthening before you dive feet first into an intense routine. Putting your body through “sport specific” range of motions, and getting it used to the motions you will be doing every day is a wise thing to do before intense training starts.
I like to have my softball girls start with some shoulder stabilization exercises to get them ready for the season. Do they always want to take the proactive approach that I do…NO, but every once in a while I get someone that starts the program with me before the season starts. This early training helps decrease the chance of an overuse injury significantly. Prevention of injury is a domain in athletic training, and that is what a pre season program can help do: prevent injury!!!
Once we determine that athletes are actually injured, and not just sore, it’t time to diagnose them and get them on the road to recovery. The 4 most common injuries I see during the track season are:
- Arch Pain
- Stress fractures
Tendonitis is an overuse injury that is causes inflammation in the tendon. The most common spots I see tendonitis in for track athletes are: Achilles tendon, Patellar tendon, and Posterior or Anterior tibial tendons (shin splints). The best things you can do for tendonitis is:
Rest: If possible I like to have my kids cut back on the amount of activity they are doing. Say a sprinter has tendonitis of the patellar tendon, and her normal work outs are to do 20 sprints. I like to have her cut down on the sprints, so instead of 20, I would have her do about 10-15 to decrease the strain put on the tendon.
Ice: ICE ICE BABY!! I have my kids try to ice at LEAST 2-3 times a day for 20 min at a time. The more ice you can put on, the better chance of the inflammation to go down. Once you can get the inflammation/swelling out of the tendons, you will start to feel significantly better.
NSAID’s: Non Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs will not only help with pain relief, but will help aid in inflammation reduction.
Physical Therapy: There are many modalities that the clinic has that I wish I could have in my back pocket at the school to treat tendonitis, but I simply don’t. I have had student athletes report that Ultrasound and E-Stim help a lot with recovery and pain reduction.
Graston: Graston can be done in the Physical Therapy clinics, or if I have time I will try to get a deep tissue massage in for chronic tendonitis.
Compression: Sometimes compression just makes tendonitis feel good. In my “Shin Splint” video for taping I show a couple techniques I do, and athletes like the compressive feeling. A compression sleeve or tape can offer some inflammation reduction, but the other methods listed will help fix tendonitis for long term.
The most common muscles I see strained are: Hamstrings and Quadriceps. Strains happen when the tendons or muscles get stretched out. This can happen for many different reasons. Sometime an athlete isn’t warmed up enough, and a cold muscle is easier to strain than a warm one. Sometimes if an athlete is rotated through the hips, it puts the muscles in a lengthened or shortened position, and that can cause strains to happen easier also. Whatever the reason a strain occurs, here is how I like to treat them:
ICE ICE BABY! Strains (like sprains) are graded on a scale of 1-3. 1 is the lease severe of strains, and 3 is the worse, with the muscle or tendon tearing often times. Ice will help get any swelling out of the area and offer pain relief. A lot of times with a grade 3, and sometimes a grade 2, there will be a lot of gross bruising (gross: a large amount), so controlling the bruising (or ecchymosis) is something you want to achieve as well.
Rest: Rest is key for strains, because if you don’t allow the injured area to heal, you will increase recovery time. Often times people try to go back too soon after a strain, and they fall in a cycle of “1 step forward, 2 steps back”. They will start to feel better and think they can resume exercise the same as before they were injured, and this often leads to re-injury, and longer recovery time. It’s important to ease back into activity after this injury.
Compression: Not only does the compression just “feel good” over the injured area, it actually helps with swelling reduction.
Elevation: Elevating the injured area (limbs above the heart) will help drain any swelling. Propping your leg up on some pillows at night, or laying on the floor with your leg on a couch/chair while watching tv is an easy way to help minimize swelling.
Physical Therapy: Again, I do what I can at the school, but I simply do not have all the tools to help speed up recovery time. Rehab of the injury is important also to decrease the likelihood of re-injury. Strengthening the injured area is also something I like to have the athlete do (either at OSI or at the school) to help prevent the same things from happening again.
3) Arch Pain:
Arch pain can be caused by a couple different things. Sometimes it’s as simple as being in the wrong type of shoe. Everybody has a different type of foot, and sometimes having the same shoe that your friend recommends isn’t the best fit for your foot type. High/low arches can cause pain, plantar fasciitis can cause pain, and a strain in the arch can cause pain. Whatever the reason an athlete is experiencing arch pain, there are some simple steps I can help with at the school:
ICE, have I mentioned that ice is a great thing to use? For arch pain I have a couple of icing options for my kids. A. A regular ice bag on the bottom of the foot. B. Fill a plastic throw away water bottle with water and freeze it, then roll the bottom of your foot over the bottle. C. An ice cup. Fill a paper dixi cup with water and freeze it. Peel the paper down and give the bottom of your foot an ice massage. D. An ice bath. Fill a plastic container with cold water and ice cubes, and submerge the whole foot.
Massage: If you have someone in your life that would LOVE to give you a foot massage on the daily, then great, utilize them! For a DIY approach I tell my kids to apply pressure while standing up to a golf ball on the bottom of your foot, and roll it back and forth.
Tape: Tape can help with many different types of arch pain. For flat or high arch, we can tape for support, for plantar fasciitis we can tape for comfort, and for strains we can tape for support.
Physical Therapy is always an option for any injury. Like I keep stating, I can only do so much as one person and with limited supplies.
4) Stress Fractures:
Stress fractures are also a cause of overuse. Usually athletes that participate in track get this injury in the meta-tarsal bones of the foot, or even in the shin bones (tibia or fibula). The bone gets worn down to the point where tiny fractures occur. Athletes have reported it feeling like a constant dull/achy pain, and some report that it is more of a sharp constant pain. There are special test that can be done to differentiate between bony injury vs soft tissue injury, but usually an X-ray is the best way to diagnose stress fractures. Treatment for stress fractures:
Again, ICE ICE BABY!! Ice won’t heal a broken bone, but it helps with the pain reduction!
Rest: Often times stress fractures will be treated with a walking boot to offer real rest. The boot takes the stress off the overused bones, and allows them to heal. Activity is limited to almost nothing while the bone heals, and when the athlete is ready to RTP they are put on a slower recovery plan to make sure they don’t “over do it”. Rest is the main treatment for any kind of bone injury.
Physical Therapy: Therapy can help with pain reduction with modality use.
I hope you can manage to stay healthy and injury free this spring, but if you have any questions about an injury you are suffering from, please feel free to contact me and we will get you on the road to recovery!