What are overuse injuries?
Simply put overuse injuries occur when there is a mismatch between the activity and recovery, where activity levels are too much for the body to cope and recover from. The most common overuse injuries are bone stress fractures and tendinopathies (also known as tendinitis). These injuries most commonly occur within the sporting population with prevalence ranging from 30 – 50% of all sporting injuries.
Why do they occur?
Overuse injuries are not caused by one specific incident. Rather they occur due to the accumulation of repetitive stress or load over time where the body does not have the capacity to recover from. Think of your exercise capacity as a bucket and the physical activity you do as water. As you exercise you fill the bucket up, if you do too much exercise you overflow your bucket resulting in pain and injury. Often when you’re starting a new activity you become overenthusiastic and go from 0 to 100 hence overloading your body and causing injury.When you’re younger and more active your bucket will be larger, however as you become older and less active your bucket will decrease in size therefore decreasing your overall exercise capacity. These changes make you more prone to overflowing your bucket when you pick up exercise again.
Common overuse injuries
Tendons are the victims when it comes to tendinopathies, these tendons act as cables which connect muscle onto bone. Previously, tendinopathies were previously believed to be caused by inflammation of the tendon itself however recent studies have shown it is degenerative changes within the tendon itself.
Stress fractures occur when microdamage accumulates and the bone is unable to sufficiently repair itself. If left unchecked these microdamages can eventually turn into a complete fracture.
A gradual return to exercise it is ideal when returning to any activity after you’ve had an extended break. For example, instead of jumping straight back into what you were doing consider slightly dropping back from your previous activity and slowly building up from there. Even if you are already exercising regularly, you want to avoid training errors such as rapidly increasing your training intensity or duration in a short period of time.