Welcome to spring, everyone! With the snow and ice officially behind us, EVERYONE seems to be getting out and getting active…and we LOVE it!!! Running, swimming, biking, hiking, soccer, baseball, soccer, softball…the list goes on and on.
With all of those activities – especially when started up again after a few months of cold weather inactivity – injuries can easily occur. One type of injury that you don’t hear very much about, though, is “overuse injuries”. So, we thought now would be a GREAT time to discuss some of the most common overuse injuries that we see so that YOU know what to look out for…or, better yet, avoid all together!
So, what is an overuse injury? An overuse injury is any type of injury that is caused by repetitive trauma, including stress fractures and tendinitis. Overuse injuries tend to occur because of training errors. Some of the most common upper body overuse injuries include:
Shoulder – Overuse injuries that occur in the shoulder are very common, especially in those who participate in baseball, volleyball, softball, swimming, and tennis. That’s because, in a high percentage of athletes, the muscles in the front of the arm and shoulder are stronger than in the back of the arm; however, it’s those muscles in the back of the arm that are responsible for slowing the forward motion of the arm (after a pitch in baseball, or a spike in volleyball, for example). This, in turn, puts a tremendous amount of strain on the muscles that create the rotator cuff – a direct result of too much force or overuse in one direction.
Elbow – Elbow injuries tend to be seen in golfers, baseball, and tennis players and are due to the overwhelming amount of throwing/swinging motions performed by the athlete. Elbow injuries stem from inflammation of the tendons and ligaments of the elbow joint and can lead to pain, tenderness, stress fractures, ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) injuries, and/or permanent damage to the growth plates. If unaddressed, damage to the UCL can lead to the athlete needing to have the ligament replaced with a graft from another part of the body (this is known as Tommy John surgery), which tends to put players on the bench for at least a year, if not longer.
Regardless of the type of injury that is sustained, it’s extremely important to stop and reverse the progression of these types of injuries. Increasing flexibility and strength (including core strength) and ensuring proper technique are all great ways to achieve optimal performance and safety, which can be done by working with trainers, physical therapists, and your orthopaedic surgeon.
If you’re experiencing pain while playing…STOP! There’s no way to know what’s causing the pain – be it an acute injury or an overuse injury – without being evaluated by your physician. Fortunately, this is where Prairie Orthopaedic and Plastic Surgery comes in – Dr. Hurlbut and Dr. Machado specialize in treating conditions and injuries of the upper extremity! If pain or injury is slowing you down, give us a call and schedule an appointment today.