The average sports enthusiasts inflict a lot of damage on their muscles, joints and bones every day. And while a healthier lifestyle does mean faster recovery of this damage, the fact that athletes are comfortable with constant pain makes them more likely to ignore the warning signs of a serious injury.
Fitness has become a virtual obsession for adults of all ages. This has led to a rise in adult-oriented sports programs like football clubs and soccer and hockey leagues. Although these are completely normal and healthy pursuits, they do open up older participants to a potential for muscle and joint damage that they could otherwise avoid.
Most serious sports-related injuries have certain warning signs and symptoms that go beyond those that accompany daily wear and tear. It’s therefore important for any active individual to always be evaluating their aches and pains, looking for symptoms that indicate more serious problems.
1. Acute Tenderness
Tenderness that can be brought on with minimal effort – like simply pushing the area with your finger – may be an indication that you’ve done serious damage. Without bruising, it may be difficult to diagnose whether the injury is related to your bone, muscle or joint, so you should see a doctor for a recommendation on treatment.
2. Joint Pain
Joint discomfort is common in both serious and minor injuries, so these types of pains must always be carefully monitored. Throbbing or sharp pains that accompany articulation – particularly of locomotive joints like knees or ankles – lasting more than 48 hours will require a doctor’s examination.
Most injuries are accompanied by swelling, so paying attention to severity and duration is often the only way to tell serious injuries from minor ones. Severe swelling is often accompanied by pain and a lack of motion in the joints. When this lasts for more than a few hours or does not react to ice, it is time to see the doctor.
4. Reduced Motion
Even if the swelling of your joint injury isn’t obvious, suffering from a reduced range of motion can be a telling sign. The best way to check this is to compare the injured joint to the other. If the injured joint moves significantly less or with significantly more pain, it’s time to get medical treatment.
5. Numbness, Tingling
One of the most serious signs that you’ve sustained a severe injury is numbness or a tingling sensation. These indicate damage to a nerve and must always be evaluated by a physician.
6. Comparative Weakness
When a joint or muscle group is compromised by a serious injury, there is often a significant weakness in that area. Comparative tests are the best way to self-diagnose how bad these injuries may be. Lifting light weights with both the injured and uninjured side and comparing the results can be beneficial, as can shifting your weight from one leg to the other to test joint strength.
While knowing these symptoms is crucial to any active individual, even more important is being aware of how to properly prevent these injuries in the first place. There are a number of ways to approach prevention, many of which simply rely on the athlete to be more conservative in their efforts and more aware of how their body is reacting to new physical demands.
- Consult Your Physician First
A good physical evaluation will help you spot potential problems before they become serious. If you’ve had injuries in the past, be sure to pay careful attention to them and use braces, wraps and other therapy devices to minimize the chance of re-injury.
- Be in Shape First
Get in shape before you start a new fitness endeavour. Know what muscle groups and joints will be most used in the process and spend as much time as possible preparing them for the new demands you’ll be putting on them.
- Warm Up and Hydrate
Even though it’s been the first rule of exercise for decades now, many people still do not properly warm up before they work out. Prepare and gently stretch your muscles for strenuous activity and be sure to keep properly hydrated throughout the process. Following this, your chances of injury will be reduced to half.
- Use the 10% Rule
It’s often hard to decide how often should you perform an activity, what should be the maximum weight to carry and the duration for which one can continue to do an exercise. The 10% rule states that you should never increase any exercise factor more than 10% a week. This may not seem like a lot for serious sports enthusiasts, but it means a great difference to your body’s ability to properly recover.
It is said that health is wealth. And when it comes to taking care of your body; especially if you are a sportsperson, due attention should be paid to anything that sends a warning signal. Be it a continuous pain, a recurring rash or constant weakness.
Dorothy Wheaton, PA-C, is the lead clinical provider for Careworks Healthcare urgent care clinics. Careworks Healthcare offers multiple walk-in healthcare clinics in the Northeast United States.