Overuse Injuries

Injuries sustained during training are not only frustrating but can cause major set backs in preparation for a specific event. The most common type of injury sustained in training is an overuse injury. Over-use injuries occur when the load from exercise is too great for the body to adapt to in time. Generally occurring at the musculo-tendinous junction (area of the muscle where it becomes tendinius), over use injuries occur due to repetitive micro trauma which causes inflammation and pain. Over-use injuries can also involve the bursa, nerve tissue and the bone itself (eg stress fractures).

The most common reason for overuse injuries are errors in training. These are usually due to either doing too much too soon, or due to rapid increases of:

  1. Acceleration of intensity.
  2. Duration.
  3. Frequency of activity.

So how can you reduce your risk of overuse injury? Firstly I would recommend following the 10 percent rule when looking to increase your training. You should aim to increase your training load by no more than 10 percent per week. For example, if you jogged for 10 minutes last week, you should only add one minute to your workout the following week. This allows the appropriate adaptation to take place and reduces the risk of injury. This rule is applied not only to distance but also to frequency and intensity of training.

In addition it is important to consider equipment used in your choice of sport. For example, the type of shoe used, the set up of your bike, and also the surface you are competing on. Poor footwear can lead to conditions such as plantar fasciitis or shin splints, and a poor bike set up can predispose you to knee pain or iliotibial band friction syndrome. I would recommend having your bike set up assessed by a professional in the field – simply having the seat height adjusted is not enough to reduce the impact on your back and knees. When it comes to footwear, an assessment of your running gait by a podiatrist will help to tailor the type of shoe needed to reduce the chance of injury.

The first sign most people experience with over use injuries is pain and stiffness in the morning which disappears once warmed up. Continued exercise at this point will lead to further damage and inflammation. Pain lasting beyond the warm up should be investigated further. Signs that you might have an overuse injury include:

  • swelling.
  • warmth to touch
  • redness.
  • impaired function.

Treatment for overuse injuries typically involves decreasing the intensity, duration and frequency of the aggravating activity. A coach may be able to help with training and technique, but in general you should aim to incorporate both easy and hard training days to your program. Implementing cross-training will allow you to maintain fitness while not over loading the body. Remember to do a proper warm up and cool down, and take precautionary measures such as icing after activity for minor aches and pain and the use of anti-inflammatories if necessary.

As with all injuries prevention is better than cure and a massage or osteopathic treatment can help alleviate muscle soreness and remove any dysfunctions caused by training and activities of daily living that can lead to pain. This will allow you to train more efficiently and ultimately produce a better result come race day. After all, that new race bike you purchased won’t make you faster if you can no longer ride it due to pain.

  1. Brukner, Peter. Khan, Karim. Clinical sports Medicine. 4th edition. The McGraw-Hill companies
  2. Carnes, Michael. Vizniak, Nikita. Quick reference conservative care conditions manual, 2nd edition. Professional health systems Inc.
  3. Murtagh’s, John. General practice. 5th edition. The McGraw-Hill companies.
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