How to avoid the most common workout injuries, according to experts
Soft tissue injuries are the bane of any physically active person. They are the most common injuries in sport, can be difficult to heal and often reoccur, knowing how to help prevent them is key to staying healthy and active.
Your soft tissues support, connect and surround your bones and internal organs, and include muscles, tendons, ligaments, fat, skin and blood vessels. The most common soft tissue injuries occur in the muscles, tendons and ligaments. Think injuries such as hamstring strains, tennis elbow or ankle sprains. These afflictions often happen while exercising or playing sports, although sometimes they occur from unknown incidents.
Soft tissue injuries are generally traumatic or repetitive. That is, they can occur suddenly — rolling your ankle when you step off a curb, for example — or from overuse. While traumatic injuries are the most dramatic, repetitive injuries are more common.
Repetitive soft tissue injuries occur when a tissue undergoes more damage than it can heal from over time. The ultimate cause of all repetitive soft tissue injuries is simply doing too much, too soon.
To prevent a repetitive injury, you need to take a measured approach to exercise and sports and not have the weekend warrior approach in which you’re inactive all week, then run 15 miles at the weekend. It’s also important to acclimate your body slowly to a given activity.
A good rule of thumb: Don’t increase your workout volume more than 10% per week. And every four to eight weeks, give your body a rest by significantly reducing the volume and intensity of your workouts.
Avoiding soft tissue injuries isn’t necessarily all about training, however. Research suggests major changes in your environment may affect your risk of injury, too, so eat well, get plenty of sleep and perhaps skip tough workouts when your stress levels are high.
Take any injuries seriously
If you do get injured despite your best precautions, take it seriously. Even when people realize they have a soft tissue injury, they often carry on with their program hoping it gets better with time. More often than not, it just gets worse and worse until it hurts badly enough that the person simply can’t train due to the pain.
Instead of ignoring that muscle or ligament strain, see a qualified health care provider, Physiotherapist or Osteopath and expect to spend a few weeks to a month or more recovering, depending on the severity of the injury, your age and other factors. Most importantly, complete your entire rehabilitation process to reduce the risk of another injury.