Risk Factors and How to Minimise the Risk
Welcome to our first ever blog, and what a better one to start with than injury minimisation, with the New Year come plenty of motivation, determination and……. injuries.
Injuries, to put it simply suck and are a burden, delay our goals and can hang around longer than expected, . Today we’ll be talking about why (in a general sense) they occur and how we can help prevent them**!
** Essential to note this is a broad and general summary, every individual is different and may have different causing factors and preventative interventions. Thus important to seek advice from your health professional/coach/trainer etc in order to gain an individualised and specific program for your needs **
From Heel pain, Plantar Fasciitis, Shin Splints, Achilles pain, to bony injuries and ligament injuries. Why do these all occur? Injuries related to ligaments, tendons, muscles and bone are either acute or chronic. Acute injuries are likely to be sustained suddenly, such as tripping causing an ankle sprain or being on the wrong end of a sporting tackle. Chronic injuries on the other hand are probably the most common to people reading this article so we will delve further into this; These occur over a period of time, (Rule of thumb, if pain is present post 2 weeks, have it assessed by a health professional) it can start off as a niggle in your Shins, Heel or Achilles and slowly get worse if precautions aren’t taken early enough.
Here are some common risk factors for leg and ankle injuries; which include, but not limited to:
– Training errors (Too much too soon).
– High or Low BMI (Body Mass Index).
– Increased age.
– Weakened intrinsic foot muscles. (Muscles within the foot)
– Weakened Posterior Chain (Glutes, hamstrings, Calf muscles)
– Decreased joint range of motion (Particularly the ankle and big toe)
– Inadequate (outworn) footwear.
– Previous Injury.
– Poor Nutrition intake.
– Poor Sleep habits.
– Psychological Stressors
Now the term prevention is one I do not like to use as it is impossible to do all the right things and be 100% certain we will not sustain an injury, sometimes; it just is what it is.
BUT… we can help minimize the risk of injury, if you re read the above risk factors; most are somewhat modifiable.
Training errors: If we have just begun training or coming back after a long time; trying to hit your goal on the first day is a terrible idea and will most likely result in injury. It is important to work towards your goals with adequate progression rather than a great spike. For those beginning to run or exercise I would certainly consult with an allied health professional or coach to get you on the right track and create a base foundation. For those with some, or a lot of experience a simple way to self-manage your loading parameters would be through the Acute : Chronic Workload Ratio (A topic which will be covered in greater depth with its positives and downfalls another time), if unfamiliar with this concept just send through an email and we can help you calculate and track this.
High Body Mass Index (BMI): BMI can be deceiving and inaccurate, however it is the most non – invasive and simplest method to determine ones healthy weight range in comparison to height. Feel free to follow the link to assess yours https://www.heartfoundation.org.au/bmi-calculator . Increased body weight or a recent gain in weight can cause tendons, bones, ligaments and muscle to be under more stress than normal, which is why they may become irritated as the load being placed on the structure has been exceeded. When decreasing body fat percentage is it essential to do so in a healthy manner and not through some fad or a 5 week challenge, therefore I would consult with a dietitian and exercise physiologist to do so and they can create your plan.
Decreased Strength and Muscle Range of Motion: Strength work helps minimise the risk of injuries; to simply put it: the stronger your muscles are and the more load they can tolerate the less chance you will be injured. Injuries tend to occur when load exceeds capacity of a structure in the body, this can be tendon, ligament, bone or muscle. Get a specific strength plan tailored to YOUR goals as this will benefit a) your end goal and b) help reduce the presence of injury. Increasing strength doesn’t only create stronger muscles, it also increases bone density, ligament strength and joint strength. And for runners, it is crucial you continue to train the lower limb weekly, as it is sometimes neglected due to the fear it will slow you down, which is completely false!!
Footwear: This is a tricky one as there is no perfect shoe, just the right one for your feet. My suggestion is to go to a shoe store and try on different runners to see which is most comfortable, assure the width and length is correct and there is not rubbing or discomfort. Shoes tend to last 500-800km pending how heavy you are, what surface you walk/run on and if you wear the shoes to do other tasks. I would be keeping track of this, however when the shoes have always been comfortable and you begin to feel a niggle pop up after having the shoes for a while, it may be time to get a new pair.
Poor Nutrition, Impaired Sleep/Recovery and Psychological Stressors:
Not topic I am hugely familiar with, however they all have shown to be a precursor to injury.
It is important to remember increasing muscle is done by how we recover, during our workout we are stressing the tissues, therefore it is what we do to allow them to regenerate as strong as possible which will yield the results we want!
If you are not fuelling your body with the adequate Carbohydrates, Proteins, Fats and all the other micronutrients how can you expect the bodies structures to replenish and heal. I recommend consulting with a dietician to help create a meal plan which will either help or prevent an injury from occurring.
In terms of sleep, rest, and recovery; it aids to heal tissues through increased blood flow when in a deep stage of sleep (Non-REM) which allows for oxygen and nutrients to regenerate the bodies structures. Hormones are also released during the deep stage of sleep; these being growth hormones for muscle repair and growth and Prolactin which regulates inflammation. Ideally the perfect amount of sleep is said to be between 7 and 9 hours.
In relation to psychological effects on injury prevention; this can be caused by stressors, anxiety and depression. Again, not an area of expertise so it is advised to consult with your trusted health professional regarding this matter.
A great way to overcome stressors, is to practise mindfulness/meditation this can and should be done daily by just putting 10 minutes aside, closing your eyes and being with your own thoughts. There’s no right or wrong way, as long as it is done without interruption and to escape the busy lifestyle we tend to normally lead.
The 5 take homes:
1) Injuries can happen to the best of us, enjoy the process to bounce back.
2) Load management is key.
3) Strength training is essential.
4) Allow for adequate recovery.
5) Pronation and foot rolling has not been shown to be a risk factor.
If you’re having difficulty with an injury don’t hesitate to get in touch so we can get you back to being at your best!