By Frank Alexander
Baseball Health Network
If you play competitive sports, injuries are always a possibility. Nobody knows exactly when or how they will get hurt. Unfortunately, there is no way to predict injuries. Even the most elite athletes fall victim to injuries and spend time on the disabled list or have to sit a few matches out.
While we cannot predict much about injuries, we can avoid many of them. All athletes can prevent a group of injuries called “overuse” injuries. Overuse injuries are just that – when you over use a body part such as an elbow, shoulder, or knee without adequate rest.
Many overuse injuries happen in adolescent athletes that are still growing. These injuries are fairly common and you may have even heard of a few such as: Little Leaguer’s Shoulder, Little Leaguer’s Elbow, or Jumper’s Knee. Adolescent athletes are not the only population that succumb to overuse injuries. Weekend Warriors, runners, frequent golfers and tennis players also develop overuse injuries. Common overuse injuries in the skeletally mature population include: Tennis Elbow, Golfer’s Elbow, and IT Band Friction Syndrome.
Nobody wants to hear they are injured but the good news is you can recover from them. You have an excellent chance of making a full recovery if you let your body rest and correct any asymmetries and muscle imbalances. Many athletes will not want to “rest” but rest does not mean you cannot exercise or play sports. It just means you have to adjust your routine.
Athletes that have overuse injuries can still participate in sports but may have to stop the sport they got injured playing. If you have Little Leaguer’s Shoulder, it doesn’t mean you have to stop everything for the whole spring or summer, it just means you should take a break from throwing a baseball. Depending on the severity of the condition, some athletes may be allowed to play basketball, soccer, or even swim in a pool. For patients suffering from Golfer’s or Tennis Elbow, a simple adjustment of how you hold a club or a racket may be all it takes to alleviate your symptoms. Any runner with ITB Friction Syndrome may have to take a break from running, but they can still get in the pool or ride a bike. There are plenty of ways to make minor adjustments to exercise routines and still be active while injured!
The best way to prevent these injuries is to make sure you give your body a break every now and then from the demands you place on it. This is especially important for our young and growing athletes. Baseball and tennis players should give themselves a break from throwing or competing after their season ends. Runners can hop on a bike or elliptical every once in a while to avoid injury as well. There are many ways to avoid overuse injuries so if you think you may be prone to them, feel free to ask any expert on our Team and we’ll be happy to help you stay on the court, field, or track!
Frank J. Alexander, Jr., M.S., ATC, is a Physician Extender to Dr. Christopher Ahmad, Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at Columbia University Medical Center.