Preventing Sports Injuries: Stretching Exercises

Medical research has proven that an increase in the flexibility of a muscle unit increases performance and reduces the amount of injuries sustained. Basic stretching exercises include warming up and cooling down sessions. The main mechanism is due to the loosen tendons after stretching which is less prone to tears when used. Stretching also helps to reduce the recovery time in-between sessions and increases the biomechanical efficiency.

There are basically 3 main types of stretching namely static, ballistic and proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF). Static stretching is the most common and the safest amongst the 3. Static stretching works by slowly pulling the muscles towards its maximum end range of motion for a duration of 15 seconds. This is done in a painless and controlled environment and during the stretching exercise no sudden jerks should be made. It is performed for usually for 3 sets and after which an increase in flexibility will be observed. Static stretching should also be performed after the exercise to aid in recovery. Studies have shown that stretching can help to dissipate the lactic acid build up in the muscles which are responsible for the soreness experienced post-exercise.

Ballistic stretching on the other hand uses the momentum of a moving body to stretch it beyond the normal range of motion. This is also known as bouncing stretching which pulls your muscles through exercises such as bouncing on a trampoline while stretching the back. Medical studies have concluded that this is not useful and can lead to injuries since it stretches your muscles suddenly instead of progressively as seen in static stretches.

Last but not least is the proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF) stretch. It is the fastest and most effective stretching method that combines passive and isometric stretching to obtain maximum flexibility. PNF stretch was originally intended for recovering stroke victims. It works by passively stretching the muscles and then contracting it isometrically and repeating over and over again.

Stretching can be easily performed anywhere regardless of the activity you are about to perform. In fact, stretching should not be considered a warm up exercise. You should perform stretching even before you commence your warming up exercises. Always keep your stretches sport specific so that you work the correct muscle groups. Remember to always exercise caution when doing stretches and do not work muscle groups that are injured or it can be further aggravated.

Taking Care of Sports Injuries: Leg Fractures

Beneath our skin is the human skeletal system comprising of 206 bones working in tandem with soft tissues such as ligaments, tendons and cartilage to perform critical bodily functions such as movements and regulations. Making up the skeleton are bones and these bones can be fractured when a large enough external force is acted against it. Leg fractures are the condition whereby either the femur, fibula or tibia bones in the leg are broken. There are many possible causes for leg fractures and the main culprit is often overuse injury.  In this article, we will be discussing about how best to care for sports injuries such as leg fractures.

Splint

Splint is often the first treatment administered to patients with leg fractures. Many people mistaken splint as casts and it is important to be able to differentiate. Splints do not surround the entire fractured bone and is often only padded on one or two sides to provide protection and support. Splint helps to restrict unwanted movements which could further aggravate the fracture and due to its “open” nature, it allows swelling to happen. Doctors will usually apply a splint to the patient for a few days until the swelling has subsided and will then follow on with a immobilisation cast.

Casts

After the swelling has subsided, a cast can then be used. Casts are large, hard bandages made of plaster or lightweight fibreglass which completely immobilise the bone to accelerate healing. The internal padding is made up of comfortable cotton lining which helps to absorb perspiration.

Elevating the leg

Whenever possible, the patient should always try to elevate the injured leg to a position above the heart. This helps to reduce swelling and drain the fluids down and away. Elevating the leg also reduces pain and accelerates the healing process.

Keeping away from water

Utmost care should be taken to keep away from water during this period if it is made of plaster. Water will disintegrate the plaster and render it useless. The water can also react with the plaster and cause rashes to form on the skin.

Using walking aids

Before the bone has completely healed, you should not bear weight on it to prevent further injuries and hinder the recovery process. When you are moving around, you should always use a walking aid such as a crutch to assist you.

Leg fractures are troublesome injuries that have a significant impact on your daily life. However, with the proper care and treatment, recovery time should not take too long and you will not be far off the track.

3 Ankle Strengthening Exercises

Did you know that each person walks an average of 9000 steps per day? And the total distance covered by a person in his lifetime is sufficient to cover the Earth a whopping 4 times? Not only has the foot need to bear our body weight, it also has to lift it off the ground when we are walking. This places tremendous stresses on the ankles as well as the surrounding ligaments and tendons. With such a high use rate, problems can easily arise if it is not well taken care off. Imagine your ankle to be a car engine – you need preventive maintained after a certain mileage. However, you cannot give your ankle an off day as that will result in lots of inconvenience so the best alternative is to perform ankle strengthening exercises which can help to better support the ankle.

Ankle strengthening exercises are simple and can be performed easily almost everywhere without the need for big and bulky equipments.

Resistance band assisted flexion

The resistance band assisted flexion is a simple and convenient exercise that does not take up much space and time. You will need a resistance band which can be easily purchased from most sports shops. Place the resistance band over the top of your foot and curl the toes in. Slowly flex your leg outwards and you will be able to feel a slight pull at the ankle. Slowly return to the starting position and repeat for 3 sets of 20s.

Achilles stretches

The Achilles tendon is the thickest and strongest tendon in our body and it passes through the ankle. Therefore, it makes sense to strengthen this tendon which is responsible for absorbing the weight of our body. Sit down in an upright position and using a towel, wrap it around the toes. Slowly pull the towel towards you and you should be able to feel a stretch in the ankle. Repeat this exercise for 3 sets of 20s.

Toe raises

Toe raises can be performed almost anywhere, even when you are on your way to work or school. Stand on the edge of a flight of stairs and slowly raise your toe. Standing on the edge causes your body to shift the entire weight to the toes and help to strengthen your ankles. It can also help to promote a sense of balance in your body. Slowly return to the starting position and repeat for 20 times for 3 sets.

Without such a high usage, it is not shocking to know that ankle injuries are common. However, the inconvenience and discomfort of ankle injuries are too serious to ignore. Simple ankle strengthening exercises are simple and convenient and a little can go a long way.

Top 3 Most Knee Damaging Activities

Living an active lifestyle is great and the health benefits associated are undisputable. Exercising regularly is important to strengthen our muscles and better support our joints. Weak joints will increase the chances of misalignment for the bones, ligaments and tendons. However, it may also cause problems for your knee. Our knee has to bear the brunt of our body weight and activities such as running and jumping will cause a lot of compressive stresses on the knee and wearing out the cartilage. Although our knee is designed to take all these things thrown at it, it will give way eventually. There are some activities that are especially damaging towards the knee and let’s explore them further.

Activities are classified into 2 different groups, namely low-impact and high-impact. Low impact exercises as the name suggests does not cause much problems for the knee. They include yoga, swimming, cycling and walking. These activities ensure that the knee is properly supported even though it’s being used extensively. Another group is the high-impact group which includes jumping, running and weightlifting.

Jumping

Jumping is a high-impact activity that places tremendous stresses on the knee whenever you land. Your body weight is amplified through jumping and landing awkwardly places even more stresses, leading to a weight of roughly twice your original weight. Activities that require jumping as core such as basketball should be avoided by people with bad knees.

Running

Running is another high impact activity that is bad for knees. However, running methods and surfaces can be changed to allow a lesser impact on the knees. For example, striking the floor with your mid-foot is less damaging compared to a heel strike. Also, there is a push towards barefoot running which supposedly reduces injuries. The running surface can be changed to a softer one such as natural grass or stadium tracks. The soft surface can help to cushion and absorb some of the impact.

Weightlifting

Weightlifting requires flexing of the knee joint and your knees not only have to bear your body weight, it now has to take both your body weight and the free weight into consideration. This places an absurd amount of stress on your knee and this is further intensified when you attempt to bend and stand up.  Not only does your knee get damaged, the surrounding tissues such as the tendons and ligaments can easily tear.

Knowing what are the activities that causes huge stresses on your knee is important so that you can make an informed decision on what to do and what not to do. You need a functional knee every day and you do not wish to be inconvenienced by a knee injury that you can easily avoid.

 

How Does Yoga Reduce Orthopaedic Injuries?

No one in this world is born perfect. There are imbalances in various parts of our body and this can cause injuries if mishandled. Many sports athletes are now turning to an ancient form of practice – Yoga. Yoga helps to increase the flexibility and physical as well as mental strength of oneself. It helps to prevent injuries associated with overuse and speed up recovery of existing injuries.

Yoga is normally conducted in a room that is slightly warm. This increase in temperature will allow muscles to expand and relax, allowing for an increase in stretching capabilities. Enhanced stretching will help to lower the risk of injuries. Yoga will help to build up physical strength and tone muscles, especially vulnerable ones such as the back muscles. It also increases flexibility, reducing injuries that are sustained due to the inability to flex. Since yoga causes perspiration, it will draw out toxins and impurities from the body, burn excess calories and help to build up endurance levels.

Orthopaedic injuries are all about the joints and musculoskeletal system. Having strong joints and muscles will help to significantly lower the risk of injuries. For example, athletes that are involved in high tempo activities such as basketball and soccer are at a high risk of ankle sprains. Due to the constant running and jumping motion, this causes a lot of high stresses to build up at the joints. Without sufficient rest, it can lead to overuse injuries and eventually soft tissue damages. Not only does yoga help to strengthen these joints, it also helps to reduce body weight to reduce the cyclic stresses acting on weak areas of the body.

You may be thinking basic warm up and cool down stretches also help to increase body heat and relax the muscles, increasing flexibility. What is so special about yoga? Well, the main difference is that yoga goes beyond stretching the “common” muscles. Normal stretches simply stretch the muscles in a one direction plane. However, this is rather useless for sports since sports is a 3 dimensional activity whereby the stresses come in the x, y and z plane. Yoga helps to stretch all the muscles in all the directions including the small ones to better prepare for what is to come during the games. Additionally, how yoga differs from ordinary stretching lies in its breathing during the practice. The emphasis of muscles isolation, works on specific muscles and in general stronger muscles would reduce the risk of sustaining orthopaedic injuries. In fact, stronger muscles also reduce the extent of an injury as well as recovery rate. Generally a stronger individual would be able to recover faster than an individual with weak muscles.

Yoga is an ancient activity that helps to warm up your muscles, increase the flexibility and build up your physical and mental strength through various poses and motion. With thousands of years of history, it is tried and tested by many.

Importance of Recovery Period In Your Exercise Regime

Rest and recovery is probably the most important part of your exercise regime. Sufficient rest is required to maintain high level performance levels but many people still choose to over train and overuse their muscles. Too much rest will cause you to lose the intensity while too little will cause you to burn out fast. You need to strike a balance between rest and training. Repair and strengthening of the body doesn’t take place during the exercise itself. Instead, they happen when the body is at rest.

Recovery starts the moment you stop exercising. The glycogen in your muscle will be replenished and your body will start to repair muscles that are damaged such as minor muscle tears. It is through this process that your muscles get stronger and firmer. Imagine yourself twisting a paper clip now. The more you twist it, the stronger and more difficult it becomes. Your muscles will be able to withstand stronger loads the next time. However, all these are only possible through rest and recovery.

Sufficient recovery time also helps to burn more fats in your body. You can be doing a lot of cardiovascular training but without sufficient rest, you cannot burn off the fats effectively. Recovery allows the body to have time to fully stretch and contract the muscles and increase the heart rate. This increases metabolism and eat away excess fats.

Many athletes suffer from injuries simply because they over train and overuse their muscles. Without sufficient recovery periods, the muscles are unable to cope with the intense activities going on and pre-existing injuries will be amplified. Insufficient rest will also cause you to lose focus on what you are doing at the moment and this can be very dangerous, especially if you are lifting heavy weights.

Another extremely important reason why recovery is important is to allow sufficient rehydration of the entire body. Intensive training will use up all the fluids in the body and if they are not replenished, it can cause muscle cramps and even cause the body to break down. The muscles need to be constantly fed with electrolytes to keep them in optimum condition.

Rest and recovery are the most important part of a training regime. Although you may be tempted to not rest during exercises hoping to gain more muscles, it can lead to injuries and cause a negative effect for the body. Recovery also helps to repair the body and prevent injuries such as shoulder pain or elbow pain especially if you are playing sports such as tennis.

5 Common Injuries Suffered by Dancers

Dancing is a physical activity that is accompanied with a certain level or risk. Dancing is something that needs to be gradually built up from scratch and one cannot simply jump into it expecting to do something they have never tried. Proper warm up and stretching as well as cooling down exercises will need to be performed religiously before and after every session. Injuries can be career threatening to any dancer and it is important to take precautions to prevent them from happening.

Meniscus Knee Tear

Dancing requires a lot of jumping and knee twisting actions accompanied by sudden direction changes. This will place a lot of stresses on the knee, particularly the ligaments and meniscus. A tear in the knee meniscus is one of the most frequent injuries experienced by dancers and it can put you out of action for up to 6 months depending on the severity. It is important to strengthen the leg muscles particularly the knee, thigh and calf to help reduce the burden on the knee.

Ankle sprains

A proper ankle connection is important in dancing. Ankle sprains occur when upon landing from a jump, the outside of the ankle rolls inwards due to a loss of balance. This will cause the ligaments in the ankle to tear. Ankle sprains are painful and will hinder you in many aspects of your daily life. You will be out of action for up to a month.

Achilles Tendonitis

Achilles tendonitis is tendonitis of the Achilles tendon and it occurs due to muscle overuse after repeatedly acting pressure on the calf muscle. It happens most frequently in dancers who place a lot of their weight on the lower body.

Neck strain

Neck strain is a common injury and it happens so frequently because dancers have to move their head throughout a dance and many of them control it incorrectly. Instead of using the spine when they arch their neck, they use the tendons, overusing them.

Muscle cramps

Dance practices and rehearsals can sometimes take a long time and start from early in the morning till late at night. As a result, they are easy victims to muscle cramps due to fatigue and a lack of required electrolytes to replace the ones they lost throughout the day. Sometimes it can happen due to improper warm up exercises.

Dancing is a very physical demanding activity and the risk of injuries is high. New dancers will need to start slow while experienced dancers cannot be complacent and skip the basic warm up and cooling down exercises. Dancers will also need to ensure that they replace their lost fluid to prevent muscle cramps.

5 Simple Home Exercises after Knee Surgery

Once you return home after knee surgery, it is when your recovery officially starts. You need to start performing muscle strengthening exercises to build up strength that was lost due to injury. Not only that, you will also need to regain your full range of motion in the shortest possible time to eliminate any possible complications. It will be difficult initially as you have lost most of the strength previously. Recovery is a long and tedious process that needs to adhere to a schedule religiously. Deviating from it can possibly cause more harm. Rushing through it will also cause more harm than good. So what are some of the simple home exercises that you can do to help you out?

Ankle pumps

Ankle pumps will help to increase ankle dorsiflexion and help build up the shin muscles. Bend your ankles upwards and pull the toes towards you and subsequently away from you. Hold in each position for 10 seconds and repeat for 3 sets of 10 each time. Aim to perform it 3 times daily.

Assisted leg extension

You will need to regain your full range of motion in the shortest possible time. It is also the top priority post surgery. Lie on your stomach with your leg in full extension. Place you good leg below the injured leg and slowly bring it up. Try to bring it beyond the point of pain and hold in the position for 10 seconds. Slowly bring down both legs and repeat. You should try to do this exercise throughout the day whenever possible.

Seated leg extension

This is also another knee flexion exercise that helps to regain range of motion. Sit down on a chair with a back support. Slowly bend your injured knee back to the point of pain and hold for 10 seconds. Slowly return back to the starting point and repeat. Also when possible, try to perform this exercise throughout the day.

Seated leg kicks

Sit down on a chair with a back support. Stretch out your injured knee as much as you can and hold in the position for 10 seconds. Slowly bring back to the starting position and repeat. This exercise will also help to reduce any scarring in the knees and improve the range of motion.

Quad sets

Sit down at the edge of your beg with your legs on the floor. Try to tighten the quad muscles and straighten your legs concurrently. You should be able to feel your quad muscles contracting. Hold it for 10 seconds and relax. Aim to perform at least 100 sets of this exercise daily as it can help to strengthen and firm up the quad muscles to help shield some of the load from your knee.

Recovery from knee surgery is a slow and tedious process. However, do not feel disheartened and aim to do it slow and steady. Do not be frustrated by it and try to rush through it. It will do more harm than good.

4 Symptoms You Might Be Suffering From a Fracture

Fractures or broken bones results when the impact force is too high for the bone to withstand, causing it to crack. Fractures are straight forward injuries and it is a serious one. Our bones are structurally rigid and it is reinforced by connective tissues and calcium. Bone fractures come in different forms and severity that is dependent on the direction of the force and the extent of it as well as the patient’s age and health. There are some parts of the body that are prone to fractures and they are the areas that are frequently used and commonly occur as sports injuries. Some examples are the wrists, ankles and hip. Fractures can be either open or closed, with an open fracture being the bone being exposed through the skin while for the closed fracture, the skin is intact.

Bone fracture symptoms vary according to the area of injury as well as the severity. Some of them include:

Pain and Swelling

Pain and swelling occurs due to edema of the underlying soft tissues which are caused by the bleeding of periosteal blood vessels, causing immense pressure on the tissues. Although there are no nerves in the bones, the impact force and sometimes fragments can cause the immune system to act to destroy these “foreign materials”, causing swelling and inflammation to occur.

Bruising

Bruising occurs when injuries to the blood vessels occur, damaging or even breaking them due to impact forces. The tiny bump commonly seen due to bruising are due to a combination of blood leaking out from these injured blood vessels as well as the immune system’s response to the injury.

Deformity

Deformity of the injured region may occur after fracture. For example, if the shoulder is fractured, the broken bone may move out of position, making the shoulder joint look like a deformed part of the body. Very often, bone fragments can be seen sticking out and this can often be either an open or closed fracture.

Unable to use the limb.

The limb that is fractured will lose most of its capability to do even simple things like lifting up or moving around. This is due to the bones that are not connected together anymore, causing the joint to malfunction completely.
Fractures are serious medical conditions and at all times you should try to apply a cold pack to the injured region and try not to move the patient around. Immediately seek medical help and when possible, remove all clothing from the injured area.

Introduction to Various Shoulder Injuries

Our shoulder is a very delicate and complex component of our body that is kept together by bones, tendons and muscles. A shoulder injury is very painful and can cause a lot of discomfort and inconvenience to us. There are many different kinds of shoulder injuries and they are caused by different reasons such as strain, cyclic motion and injuries.

Rotator cuff strain

Rotator cuff strain is a common injury which is due to an inflammation of a tendon located in the shoulder. 4 muscles make up the rotator cuff namely the supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor and subscapularis. The most common reason for a rotator cuff strain is because of insufficient warm up prior to the start of an activity or overload of the muscles. Poor posture and accidentally falls causing you to land on your shoulders can also cause rotator cuff strain. A strain can slowly evolve into a tear if it is left untreated. For immediate treatment, RICE is sufficient. If symptoms get worse, consult a doctor immediately.

Dislocation

Our shoulder joint is an unstable joint due to the functions of it. The shoulder joint can be described as a ball and socket joint and the ball is the arm bone and the socket is the shoulder blade. It is the part of our body which has the most motion compared to all other joints. It is because of this fact that causes instability to the area. Instability can get worse when the ligaments are overstretched and are unable to hold the ball and socket firmly in place. Dislocation of the shoulder joint can occur due to injuries or trauma, causing the ball to go out of the socket.

Impingement

Impingement of the shoulder joint occurs when the supraspinatus, bicep tendons, bursa and subacromial are compressed over time, causing inflammation. It is due to repeated overhead usage of the shoulder joints. Activities which causes these include swimming and overhead press. To prevent impingement, you should allow adequate rest period between activities and strengthening of the rotator cuff muscles to allow it to take more load.

Tendonitis

Our muscles are connected to the bones through connective tissues called tendons and tendonitis is an inflammation of these tendons. The tendons that are most susceptible are the biceps tendons as well as the rotator cuff muscles. Tendonitis are usually caused by overuse, pulling or over-compression of the tendons, causing pain, tenderness and discomfort. To prevent tendonitis, ensure that proper warm up of the whole body is done and add on weights gradually to allow the body to adapt to it.

Above are 4 shoulder injuries that are frequently experienced by people. Our shoulder is an integral part of our daily life and any injuries to it will cause great discomfort and inconvenience our lives. They can be easily reduced by doing proper stretching, gradually load up and sufficient rest periods between activities.