Even as we enjoy the Olympic Games, having to watch high profile athletes getting injured is devastating. Orthopedic sports injuries at the Olympics are inevitable. Athletes train for years, pushing the physical limits of their bodies. As they keep doing a repetitive motion, stress and trauma to the ligaments, tendons and muscles build up into larger injuries overtime.
Just four days into the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, a spate of serious injuries occurred among athletes in various sports such as gymnastics, weightlifting and cycling. According to a CNN report, studies show that the frequency and severity of injuries at the Olympics have not changed much in the past decade.
The most common injuries at the Olympics are overuse injuries. These injuries involve damage to a bone, muscle, ligament, or tendon due to repetitive stress, without allowing time for the body to heal. During training, the body may be put to a great deal of stress – much more than it is capable of dealing with – which injures the tissues. Common examples of repetitive strain injuries that occur among athletes include tendinitis, shin splints, tennis elbow, golfer’s elbow, bursitis, swimmer’s shoulder, runner’s knee, chondromalacia patella, and stress fractures. Olympic Armenian weightlifter Andranik Karapetyan’s elbow overuse injury at Rio was the result of hyperextension – bending of the elbow beyond the normal range of motion.
Of course, acute injuries such as sprains, fractures, shoulder dislocations, and muscle strain can also occur, but overuse injuries are more typical among Olympian athletes. A severe injury could be due to predisposing factor, such as a stress fracture that occurred during training not healing properly.
The common causes of overuse injuries are
- Poor muscle strength or endurance
- Decreased core stability
- Muscle imbalance (difference in strength between opposing muscles around a joint)
- Misalignment or structural issues
- Training errors
- Technique flaws
- Ill-fitting equipment
Overuse injuries can happen to anyone and risks increase as you age. Symptoms include muscle aches and soreness, swelling, and reduced strength or speed, and pain with activity or exercise. Early treatment is crucial. So if you notice these symptoms, find a reliable rehabilitation center with a multispecialty approach to the evaluation and management of chronic overuse injuries. In fact, for athletes such a team approach works best as it takes advantage of the expertise of orthopedists, pain management physicians, physical therapists, and sports medicine specialists. A collaborative effort is the key to proper diagnosis and comprehensive care for successful return to sport and prevention of overuse injuries.