How to Prevent Outdoor Fitness Injuries

The Bad News:  Injuries can happen. Aches, muscle fatigue and soreness are part of life for active people and those involved in athletic endeavors.
 
The Good News:  Most injuries are preventable, and are often a result of overtraining and repetitive stress.
 
Overtraining
Overtraining symptoms bear much resemblance to chronic fatigue syndrome; body aches, tiredness and feeling flat or uninterested in training. The expression often used to sum up overtraining injuries is "too much, too soon.” Another one is "too far, too fast."

There are variety of signs and symptoms of overtraining. 
Symptoms include:

•    An unusual feeling of tiredness and fatigue.
•    An early morning resting pulse with an increase of 5 or more beats.
•    Muscles that may be unusually sore.
•    Loss of appetite and weight loss.
•    Cold or viral infections.
•    Emotional distress—anxiety, tension, anger or depression.
•    Feeling flat and uninterested in activities once interested in.
•    A lack of interest in training.
•    Difficulty focusing or making decisions.
•    Bowel changes—diarrhea or constipation.
 
Musculoskeletal Related Injuries

If your Outdoor Fitness program is comprehensive in nature (using a balance of muscular strength and endurance, cardio, balance and agility training, and flexibility), the likelihood of overuse injuries are significantly lower. That said, so much of Outdoor Fitness takes place on uneven terrain, so it is essential to have an understanding of injuries that could possibly arise. Working on uneven surfaces may place considerable stress and strain on the joints of those who aren’t used to it. 
 
Use Pain as Your Guide

In general use pain as a guide. If something hurts, stop. You have an innate ability to know if something is serious or just a little tweaked. For most injuries, don’t stretch them until some recovery and healing has taken place. Often, stretching an injured muscle makes it worse due to the pulling or tearing of the healing muscle fibers. The following is a list of potential injuries, along with their symptoms and treatment.
 
Common Injuries
Here is a list of the most common injuries seen in Outdoor Enthusiasts:

1.  Plantar Fasciitis
Plantar Fasciitis is a foot ailment and most common among runners. It’s characterized by aches and pains felt under the heel or the soles of the feet. Plantar faciitis is usually most painful first thing in the morning. The plantar fascia is a band of tissue that runs the length of the foot, from the heel to the toes. The biomechanical factors that can lead to problems are heavy pronation, high arches or flat feet, a tight Achilles tendon and tight calf muscles. Other factors may include increased mileage, and failure to stretch, especially the hamstrings and calves.

•    Treatment for Plantar Faciitis is called RICE. Acronym for Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation. You may want to include ibuprofen to reduce inflammation, along with stretching (when appropriate) and massage to relieve tightness.
 
2.  Stress Fractures
A stress fracture is an overuse injury, often resulting in a crack in the bones of the lower leg or foot. It is fairly easy to figure out if the pain is a muscular problem or a stress fracture. With a muscle it will feel achy for over a broad section, with a stress fracture, it feels tender to the touch and localized to one spot.

•    Treatment: Rest will usually heal a stress fracture, However, See an orthopedist or podiatrist for an x-ray and proper treatment.
 
3.  Shin Splints
Felt along the front of the shin and the anterior tibialis muscle, shin splints are thought to be the pulling of the muscle from the bone and periosteum, or the inflammation of the muscle tissue itself. There are a number of said causes for shin splints, however, there is not a definitive cause. Biomechanics may have much to do with it, along with improper footwear. Often when working on an uneven trail, the anterior tibialis must work extra hard in the lifting of the forefoot to clear obstacles. This can cause added strain to the area. A beginning exerciser who adds too much weight, reps or mileage too quickly, may be subjected to shin splints.

•    Treatment:  Back off on training. Applying the RICE formula can relieve pain and inflammation. Stretching the calves and the anterior tibialis muscle is helpful relieve tension in the muscle tissue, however, in some cases it may make the injury worse. Sometimes an orthotic may be necessary to address biomechanical issues.
 
4.  Illiotibial  Band Syndrome
Illiotibial Band Syndrome (ITB) is one of the most common overuse injuries in runners. The Illiotibial band is a think band of tissue extending from the lateral side of the hip down past the lateral side of the knee, to the shin. The pain is usually caused by the rubbing of the ITB over the lateral aspect of the tibia, at the knee. The area can become aggravated when running on uneven surfaces and when the muscle tissue gets tight. Other causes may include a dramatic increase in mileage, running in one direction on the side of the road or the track, downhill running, wearing worn out or inappropriate shoes.

•    Treatment: Discontinue lower body exercise consisting of running, squats, lunges, etc. Stretching the IT Band may be helpful to loosen muscle tissue. Applying the RICE formula can relieve pain and inflammation. Sometimes an orthotic may be necessary to address biomechanical issues.
 
5.  Ankle Sprain
An ankle sprain is usually caused by a rollover and characterized by pain and swelling. Damage is typically done to the lateral ligaments and the severity can run the gamut from a pull to a tear.  With the outdoor fitness participant, ankle sprains typically occur when there is a lapse in mental focus; not looking ahead for protrusions in the terrain, wet roots and rocks. However, repeated ankle sprains often occur in people with loose or weak ankles.

•    Treatment:  Continue to wear the shoe home to prevent swelling. Treat the sprain with RICE. If the pain is severe, seek medical attention for further treatment.
 
6.  Low Back Pain
Low back pain can be caused from tight hamstrings, muscular imbalances, weak core muscles, poor posture, incorrect exercise form and falls. The majority of low back distress is caused from deconditioning and weakness in musculature. To prevent further problems, remain mindful of proper form and neutral alignment of the spine. Avoid contraindicated exercises such as dead lifts, military presses, upright rows, kicks, spinal hyperextensions and downhill running.

•    Treatment:  Strengthening for core. Stretching for hamstrings, low back, lumbar spine and hips. Use the RICE method for pain following a workout.
 
7.  Knee Pain
Knee pain is not uncommon in active people, especially runners. Most knee problems stem from overuse, wear and tear, incorrect footwear, muscular imbalances or abnormalities such as uneven leg lengths, bow-legs and knocked knees.

•    Treatment: Treatment for knee pain will vary. Often knee pain will dissipate with muscular strength training, proper footwear or orthotics. If pain persists for 2 weeks or more, refer the client to a medical professional such as a sports medicine physician or podiatrist.
•    Wear the correct footwear for the conditions.

 

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