How To Avoid Overuse Injuries


As I type this I have been informed that I have a torn posterior labrum in my shoulder.  The labrum is the cartilage that protects the glenoid fossa (the socket) from the humeral head (the ball).  I sustained this injury through years of throwing baseballs as a catcher all the way through college, and now as a college coach throwing batting practice.  I would put my total number of throws over my lifetime over 1,000,000 if I had to guess.  This is considered an overuse injury—one that isn’t caused by an acute incident or a traumatic accident.
Overuse injuries are one of the fastest growing injuries in sport, and can range from mild shin splints to rotator cuff tendonitis to IT Band Syndrome to plantar fasciitis.  All of these usually occur in people that do repetitive motions over and over again like running, cycling, swimming, tennis, or baseball.  Overuse injuries can sideline an athlete for a whole season, or even a year, if they are not treated soon enough.
Overuse injuries usually can be controlled with rest, ice, and your favorite NSAIDs, but if they go untreated they can derail your training and leave you in pain on the couch.  So, what should you do?  It depends on what sport you participate in:
·        Swimming: The most common injury is deterioration of the rotator cuff tendons (tendinosis) and can usually be avoided by not swimming when tired, properly warming up, and resistance training.  Strengthening the muscles of the rotator cuff and the muscles supporting the scapula can help.
·        Running:  Running is great for overall health, but can be very hard on the legs—especially if you are starting from scratch.  The most common injuries are shin splints (strained anterior tibialis muscle, to the point where it starts to pull bone fragments off the tibia in severe cases), plantar fasciitis (inflammation and aggravation of the thick tissue on the bottom of the foot), and IT Band Syndrome (thickening and shortening of the connective tissue supporting the outside of the upper leg).
o   Shin Splints: RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation).  A good tip is to take Dixie cups, fill them with water and freeze them.  Once frozen, peel the paper off and apply the ice in a figure 8 motion over the affected area.  Another thing would be to mid foot or toe strike when running instead of heel striking.
o   Plantar Fasciitis:  RICE.  Foam rolling the muscles of the lower leg will help alleviate tension further down the kinetic chain.  You can also take a tennis ball, lacrosse ball, or golf ball and roll it, front to back, on the bottom of your foot.
o   IT Band Syndrome: The IT band is a little trickier as it is usually very tender once it is aggravated.  Foam rolling of the TFL (Tensor Fascia Latae) and the IT band from the hip to the knee will help release tension.  NSAIDs can help with knee pain associated with the ITB Syndrome.  These stretches will also help stretch the TFL and the IT Band:


·        Cycling:The most common overuse injury in cycling is IT Band Syndrome and Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome related knee pain. For the IT Band see above, for Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome resistance training will usually help alleviate pain associated with incorrect tracking of the patella.  Focusing on the glutes and hamstrings and less on the quadriceps will help the knee cap track correctly.
·        Overhead sports:  Sports like baseball, softball, volleyball, and tennis all have similar overhead throwing motions and also have similar modalities to keep you healthy.  Most importantly is making sure your shoulder and scapula work in harmony with each other.  If they don’t, you may be impinging your rotator cuff tendon between the humeral head and the inferior side of the acromion. Strengthening the muscle of the rotator cuff, the muscle supporting the scapula, and keeping proper posture will help keep you healthy!
If you have any questions about overuse injuries please leave them in the comments below!  If you would like to talk with me directly about how to keep you healthy, contact me at [email protected].
Skip to content