Monday, November 2, 2009

5 "Popular" Causes of Sports Injuries

As a massage therapist and soigneur I see and deal with a multitude of injuries on a daily basis. This makes my work both interesting and extremely challenging! The injuries range from pre-operative, post-operative, acute, sub-acute, chronic, sport and non-sport related.

What causes sports injuries? This is a very multi-faceted topic.Some of the causes of injuries are, but not limited to: Biomechanical imbalances; inadequate warm-up; ill-fitting equipment; instability and weakness; deconditioning; overtraining; hypermobility; not wearing safety equipment, protective gear, or helmets; mechanical problems and/or malfunctions; crashing; lack of muscle, tendon, and/or ligamentous strength around a joint; returning to your sport or job too soon without adequate or proper rehabilitation after an injury, accident or surgery.

Whether you are a professional athlete or wait person who runs for fitness, injuries are something that have to be dealt with at some time or another. 5 "Popular" Causes of Injuries are:

  • Too much too soon

  • Over-use

  • Fatigue

  • Change of surface

  • Change of equipment

Let's go over each of these causes in a little more detail for better understanding.


This occurs when a cyclist rides too hard, for too long, or a runner runs too hard, for too long. If you are a wait person, you might injure yourself by working multiple double shifts over a Father's Day or Graduation weekend not thinking that it might effect your low back or hamstrings; you were thinking about making extra money! This happens a lot at the beginning of an amateur athlete's season and typically, around the time of the Olympics, Wimbledon, and the Tour de France, when people get excited and want to "get out there and get in shape!"


Over-use injuries are when you don't know when to stop! Your brain says "this feels good, I want some more!" Unfortunately, the chemical bi-products of exercise accumulate in the system and the athlete pays for it later. A comic example of over-use that I have seen, time and time again, seems to occur at the squat rack in the gym...I had a client that would hit the squat rack and "check out the chicks" on the Elliptical Machine in hopes that they would catch a glimpse of his impressive form, which of course, they never did! Poor Clyde! (name changed ) His quads and glutes were torn to shreds! He could barely walk. Another example is when your endorphins of exercise tell you to finish your light jog around the track with some stadiums; this can end up as a recipe for disaster. Several sets of stadium runs might be okay; it's the over-doing-it that puts people down for days. If stadiums are not part of your regular training regime and you simply binge, it takes days to recover. Over-use is over-use, no matter how you look at it!


When the body is fatigued physically, or from lack of fuel, injuries are bound to occur. Many athletes decide to remain on the field "just a little bit longer" after practice to run more hurdles or high jumps. Often times their muscle and tendon apparatus have become fatigued and are unable to support these final practice runs. Sprains and strains are likely to occur and the defeated athlete always wonders, "why?" They question their form. They question the equipment. They question the surface. The frustrations surrounding fatigue are endless. Fatigue injuries are frequent with people who exercise after work. Fueling the body is crucial regardless of when you train or whether you are a professional athlete or a weekend warrior.


Change of equipment is an interesting cause of injury. Cycling is a good example to use. Riders at the level of the Pro-Tour are basically human extensions of their bicycle. Their bikes are custom made for their bodies. Every tube, crank, and seat post, is measured to the millimeter to fit each rider. Some riders have leg-length discrepancies and ride two different crank lengths. Achilles tendon and knee problems occur when a seat post drops down in a crash and is not put back to the exact height by the team mechanic!

If you are runner and have been running in Nike shoes and switch to a stiffer sole brand, you might suffer from Plantar Fascitis. If you are used to holding your mobile phone against your shoulder and develop neck pain, your problem might be ameliorated by using a headset. When chefs suffer from epicondylitis (tennis elbow) from lifting heavy pans they typically switch to lighter gear.


Change of surface injuries are common with runners. If you are accustomed to running on the road and suddenly start running on the beach you are bound to suffer from some form of injury. I worked with many injured professional tennis players at a tournament at Indian Wells in Palm Springs. They had all arrived from The French Open where they had been playing on clay, and now were competing on a harder composite surface. Most of them were complaining about low back and hamstring pain. Many local tennis players I work with have the same injuries when playing tournaments on asphalt courts when their Santa Barbara home courts are a softer composite surface. Change of surface wreaks havoc on athletes causing compression injuries, shin splints, sprains and strains and again, frustration. The athlete typically is trying to just "mix it up" and doesn't realize that the surface change is part of the problem.

I find breaking down the causes of an injury to be a simplistic and rational methodology. My work continues to be ever challenging, always fascinating, and new! Recovering from the injury is another kettle of fish!

1 comment:

AvalonBalker said...

Hi Shelley,

Wow. It looks great. I like the title change. By the way, I posted your blog link on my page at Facebook. Let me know if any of my "friends" check in!

You are the best! xoxo