Top 5 Most Common Weekend Warrior Injuries
By: Jennifer Heiligman, PT, MPT
June has been designated as Men’s Health Month. In honor of this we want to focus on the top 5 injuries associated with being a weekend warrior. What exactly is a Weekend Warrior? This is someone who participates in physically strenuous activities part time and most often on the weekends. Statistically speaking most weekend warriors are men between the ages of 30 and 50.
Getting out and exercising is a good thing. As an adult, it is harder to exercise on a regular basis than when you were younger, secondary to the demands of life. While exercise is a good thing, exercising in this manner may, however, put you at a higher risk for injury. Sports injuries are the most common reasons for seeing a physician or going to the emergency room. In addition, 55% of all hospital admissions occur over the 2 day weekend period as compared to 45% during the whole 5 day work week. We’re going to highlight the 5 most common injuries of weekend warriors in an effort to make you aware of the most common risks and how to minimize your chances of injury. If you are an outpatient rehab therapy practice you could promote this information to your current patients and surrounding community in an effort to help establish a prevention program within your clinic.
Ankle Sprains and Strains
This injury occurs when you stretch and/or tear ligaments surrounding the ankle. Turning the ankle out of its normal range of motion can happen when cutting a corner or stepping on an obstacle when running. Basketball is another big culprit of ankle sprains. You may go up for a layup and land awkwardly twisting your ankle.
To help avoid ankle sprains, be sure to stretch and warm up prior to any activity. Completing balance activities and ankle stabilization exercises including such things as standing on one foot can help to strengthen the ankle structures. In addition, be sure you are wearing well fitting athletic shoes that provide plenty of support.
The hamstring muscles run along the back of our legs. These are generally the tightest muscles in our bodies and are involved in just about every type of physical activity that we participate in. Taking these 2 factors into consideration, it is no surprise that hamstring strains are such a common injury, especially for weekend warriors. This type of injury accounts for 29% of all lower extremity injuries. Should you experience sudden pain, weakness or a popping sensation at the back of your thigh, it would be best to stop your activity and seek medical attention.
Stretching your hamstrings on a consistent basis can help to combat hamstring strains. The more flexible the muscles are, the decreased chance they will get pulled or torn. Stretching before and after activity is recommended. Hydration can also play a role in muscle health. If your muscles become dehydrated it could increase their risk of injury.
Tennis Elbow and Golfer’s Elbow
Since both tennis and golf are sports that can require the commitment of at least a few hours in order to participate, these are two sports that are often played on the weekend. Both of these sports require the repetitive motion of swinging a tennis racket or swinging a golf club. That repetition of motion can irritate the tendons and ligaments of the foreman that connect to the elbow. Tennis elbow is when the structures on the outside of the elbow become irritated and golfer’s elbow affects the structures on the inside of the elbow. These injuries will reveal themselves with a presentation of pain, stiffness and decreased range of motion.
The chance of developing tennis elbow or golfer’s elbow can be decreased by stretching your forearms and wrists. Proper equipment fitting and proper mechanics will also decrease the chance of suffering from these repetitive overuse injuries.
Low Back Pain
Low back pain is one of the most common overuse injuries. Most weekend warriors will not escape a bout of low back pain at least once in their life. There are many different causes including muscle spasm, muscle strain, or a herniated or slipped disc. If you experience pain or numbness going down your leg, it is a good idea to see a doctor. That may be indicative of a more serious injury.
The best way to prevent a bout of low back pain is to regularly perform a strengthening program focused on your core muscles. Strong core muscles will help support the spine. This also builds endurance in the muscles to allow them to perform their necessary duty for the duration of the activity whether it be running, swinging a golf club for 18 holes or playing a pick up basketball game. In addition, as stated above for some of the other conditions, a preventative stretching program can help to minimize the risk of injury. The program should include stretches for the hip flexors, hamstrings and low back musculature.
Injury to the shoulder can involve dislocation of the joint, muscle strains, rotator cuff tears and tendon injuries. These injuries can occur gradually from repetitive wear and tear or acutely from a blow to the shoulder. The most common sports resulting in shoulder injuries are those involving a lot of throwing like baseball and repetitive motion like tennis and golf. Shoulder issues can also occur when lifting heavy loads overheard as in Crossfit. The symptoms involved will include pain, decreased range of motion and decreased power.
Shoulder issues occur largely secondary to faulty biomechanics. Structures may be weak or tight causing improper body mechanics which puts undue strain on the tendons and muscles. To prevent this, it is important to stretch and warm up prior to exercising.
The good news is that the majority of these injuries can be treated at home using the R.I.C.E method. This stands for Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation. Following this process should provide much relief for most of the injuries listed above. The exception may be low back pain. That issue may respond better to applying heat instead of ice. However, if the symptoms persist or get significantly worse it would be recommended to seek medical attention at that time. Physical Therapists are well equipped to aid in recovery from these weekend warrior induced injuries. In addition, check out your local physical therapy clinic to see if they offer any type of Weekend Warrior Injury Prevention Program.
Being physically active is an important aspect of staying healthy. Unfortunately, when you are not participating in activities on a consistent basis and jump into strenuous activities on the weekends, it can lead to injury, including those listed above. However, by warming up and stretching prior to exercising, making sure you have proper fitting equipment and listening to your body, you can decrease the chance of becoming an injured weekend warrior statistic.