Sport and exercise are becoming increasingly demanding, especially for those with an obsession to get fit, those with a competitive edge or those striving to lose weight.
Anyone who is involved in regular exercise or physical activity will be exposed to a risk of injury, no matter how amateur they feel they are. To have to take time out from sport and exercise due to injury can be disappointing and often more painful than the injury itself. Injuries can often be prevented with a better understanding of what could be causing the injury in the first place. With a focus on awareness and an early detection of a potential injury through “screening”, there is a higher chance of an injury being prevented.
What is Injury Screening?
“Screening is a whole body assessment used to highlight any problems that could impact an individual’s ability to perform to their maximum potential.”
An assessment will focus on the areas of the body that are put under stress during functional movements. It will identify any potential or current problems by targeting any inefficiencies in the individual and will ultimately help to minimise the risk of injury and ensure peak condition is maintained.
A qualified Therapist will make a detailed report of any musculo-skeletal complaints, assess any deficiencies in movement, look at range of movement in joints, as well as assess the strength and flexibility of muscles. From this, any weaknesses or limitations will be addressed and guidance will be given on a course of action post-screening. Considerations will be made on any potential injury-prone areas of the body and recommendations will be made on how to avoid an injury occurring in the future. Rehabilitation exercises can be prescribed to improve overall movement, joint range, muscle strength and general flexibility.
Why do injuries occur?
In general, and with proper maintenance, injuries can more often than not be avoided. Injuries are commonly caused by one or a combination of the following:
Poor flexibility | Tight &/or weak muscles | Poor coordination & balance | Imbalanced structure | Incorrect footwear | Too hard/too soft training surfaces | Poor training technique | Incorrect warm up / cool down | Fatigue | Skill level
There tend to be two types of injury that occur when exercising: trauma and overuse injuries. Trauma injuries tend to be caused as a result of an incident; a torn muscle or a sprained ankle for example. Overuse injuries are as a result of small amounts of tissue damage that have built up over time. Inadequate or inappropriate training, over-training and a lack of rest and recovery can all contribute to overuse-typed injuries.
Shin pain doesn’t necessarily equate to a problem with the shin itself. Shin pain is often a symptom of a different cause and is usually as a result of poor flexibility in the calves or a musculoskeletal imbalance of the foot and ankle. Incorrect footwear, tightness in the calves, inefficient foot mechanics can all contribute to discomfort in and around the shin.
Sprains are common around the ankle joint and tend to be caused by a sudden exertion of load on the joint. Typically the ligaments on one side of the ankle joint tend to be weaker than the other therefore there is a risk of excessive movement and force on one side resulting in a lack of balance and instability.
The Achilles Tendon attaches the lower leg to the foot and can easily become inflamed with overuse. When the calf muscles and the feet are tight, weak or not moving effectively, the Achilles is forced to overwork, resulting in a discomfort and potentially Tendonitis.
Injuries to the foot, specifically to the Plantar Fascia (the connective tissue that runs along the bottom of the foot) are generally caused by poor flexibility, structural imbalances, exercising on poor surfaces, weak calf muscles, overtraining or wearing incorrect footwear. The Plantar Fascia can break down and become inflamed causing a condition known as Plantar Fasciitis.
Injuries to the knee are often caused by a structural dysfunction elsewhere in the lower part of the body. Tight muscles around the knee, imbalances in strength between the anterior and posterior muscles of the leg, biomechanical issues around the hip and the foot, lack of flexibility and poor technique can all significantly influence the onset of knee pain.
The Lower Back is often weak compared to other muscle groups around this area. The nature of working in the modern world means that we are required to sit for long periods of time. This places the spine in sometimes vulnerable positions that can ultimately weaken the joints. When these weak joints are over-exercised, stress is put on the joints as well as the soft tissue around the joints and injury can occur.
A strong and well aligned pelvis is paramount to maintain the stability required for a perfect structure. Abdominal and gluteal strength, combined with good flexibility in the muscles that attach to the pelvis (hamstrings, hip flexors, glutes) all assist with pelvic stability.
The implication of any of these injuries can be severe, not only by way of pain and discomfort but by loss of sanity without training, exercising and sport. Minimising injuries and ensuring the body is in peak condition is vital and key.
Prevention of injury is a lot easier than curing one!
A practical and positive approach to screening and assessments is the first step in ensuring the best chance of injury prevention. Regular Soft Tissue treatment, in the form of massage and manipulation will act as a preventative method and will work on any tight areas in the body which could be affecting efficient movement. A skilled Therapist will highlight both tight and weak areas in the body and will recommend a course of Rehabilitation Exercises to train specific areas back to functional strength.