If you’re like most athletes, you may be pumped for the warmer weather and ready to get active outside. But if you’ve got an old sports injury, or even a recent one, you may need to exercise caution—pun intended. Common injuries for women athletes range from tennis elbow to runner’s knees, and they require a variety of treatments and rest times in order to heal properly.
Know Your Type
There are two general categories of injury for women athletes: those related to overuse and those related to trauma. “Typically an overuse injury occurs due to an athlete overtraining or participating in their sport so frequently that it causes breakdown of specific tissues—such as muscle or bone—and the athlete not allowing time to recover before playing again,” says Michele Kaluf, physical therapist at Community Hospital Outpatient Centre in St. John.
Some common overuse injuries include:
• Rotator cuff tendonitis (in the shoulder)
• Lateral epicondylitis or “tennis elbow”
• Patellar tendonitis or “jumper’s knee”
• Femoral pain syndrome (in the patella)
• Iliotibial band friction syndrome or “IT band syndrome”
Kaluf adds that stress fractures also occur due to overuse, and the most common place to see that is the tibia, or shin bone.
The traumatic injury category includes strains and sprains. “The most common injuries associated with this type … would include the ankle sprain and knee ligament injury, ACL being the most common,” Kaluf says.
Prevention is Key
The key to injury prevention is to correctly strengthen and stretch all muscle groups and to allow yourself time to rest and recover, Kaluf advises. “It is important to maintain balance and to not allow one muscle group to overpower another," she says.
Overuse injuries often show up in athletes who specialize in one sport, repetitively using the same motions without time for recovery, so these injuries can sometimes be prevented with cross-training.
Kaluf’s first piece of advice for athletes experiencing an injury is to rest. “In most cases the first line of defense will be to rest and apply ice to the injury,” she says. “Decreasing practice time to allow tissues to recover is also very beneficial.”
If you plan to continue activity, re-evaluate your training program and incorporate exercises for all muscle groups. Next, make an appointment with your doctor or a physical therapist. A health professional can evaluate your injury and develop a comprehensive treatment program.