ADVOCATES FOR SAFETY

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Injuries & Conditions You Need to Know About

How to Reduce Your Risk of Overuse Injuries

Amanda Muscatell 20 January 2017

Unlike acute injuries which result from a sudden traumatic event such as a football collision, overuse injuries are the result of a repetitive physical motion such as a baseball pitch over time. These injuries can occur in any sport, but are more common in baseball, swimming, track and soccer. Overuse injuries are largely preventable, but if left ignored will worsen over time to the point where an injury that once required a week of missed practice for rest now requires several months of missed practice for rehabilitation. By following the tips below, practicing good technique and listening when your body tells you to stop you can greatly reduce your risk of overuse injuries.


1. Follow the 10% Rule

One of the best ways to reduce your risk of overuse injuries is by following the 10% Rule. The 10% Rule means that you shouldn’t increase weight lifted, distance run, duration of practice etc. by more than 10% each week. By gradually increasing your workload, you give your body enough time to adapt to the additional stress.


2. Alter How You Play

Depending on your sport, there are also certain alterations to how you play that can reduce your risk of an overuse injury. In baseball for example, by limiting your pitch count to the amount recommended for your age you are reducing your risk of shoulder or elbow injury. If you are a runner or soccer player, you can reduce the risk of shin splints by increasing your stride frequency and if you are a swimmer you can reduce your risk of swimmer’s shoulder by practicing bilateral breathing and being careful not to overemphasize freestyle.


3. Consider the Time of the Season

Be especially careful with your body in the beginning and end of the season. As you approach the start of the season slowly (see 10% Rule) increase your training so that your body will not be shocked by a sudden increase in activity when the season begins. Conversely, be sure that come the end of the season you are mindful of the fact that by now your body has been worn down and is more susceptible to injury— this is no time to hurry through stretches, warmups and cool downs!

*Remember, you can further reduce risk of early season injury by staying active in the off-season through general conditioning.


4. Give Your Body Time to Rest

While following the 10% Rule and altering your playing style are great ways to reduce your risk of overuse injury, they will be of little help if you are playing the same sport year-round without proper breaks. Without taking time off from your sport during each week of the season and a longer period of time away during the offseason, your body won’t have time to repair itself and will eventually break down, leaving you sidelined for long periods of time.


About the Author

Tamara McLeod, PhD, ATC, FNATA Tamara McLeod, PhD, ATC, FNATA is the John P. Wood, D.O., Endowed Chair for Sports Medicine, a professor and director of the Athletic Training Program at A.T. Still University in Mesa, Arizona. Dr. McLeod was the lead author on the NATA Position Statement on the Prevention of Pediatric Overuse Injuries (PDF) and a contributing author on the Appropriate Medical Care for Secondary School-Aged Athletes Position Statement (PDF) and the Management of Sport-Related Concussion Position Statement (PDF).


Related Resources

NATA Handout on Overuse Injuries (PDF)