injury prevention for weekend warriors

Ankle sprains, hamstring strains, shin splints, and slipped discs are among just a few common injuries athletes may experience. However, “weekend warriors”—or people who participate in athletic activities only on weekends or in their spare time—may be at increased risk of developing overuse injuries caused by repetitive motions.

What types of injuries are common in weekend warriors?

Weekend warrior injuries commonly occur in the joints as a result of overuse. We often see foot and ankle injuries, but problems can also occur in the knees, hips, shoulders, wrists, and elbows.

Stress fractures, or small breaks in the bone, are another common problem. Tendinosis is another chronic overuse injury that occurs when collagen, a structural protein in the tendon, deteriorates over time.

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Why do weekend warrior injuries occur?

In many cases, weekend warriors don’t have the level of physical conditioning required to perform highly repetitive athletic activities. Unlike acute injuries, such as a broken bone caused by a fall or tendinitis caused by a sudden injury to a tendon, chronic overuse injuries are caused by repetitive overloading of a muscle, bone, or joint that leads to damage that gets worse over time.

Weekend warriors who have certain intrinsic factors—or things about their anatomy that they cannot change—may be more likely to experience an injury. Intrinsic factors include your natural level of flexibility, strength, and neuromuscular control, as well as other bone, joint, or muscle abnormalities.

Extrinsic factors—or things that can be changed—can also cause injuries. For example, wearing worn-out shoes could lead to ankle problems in a long-distance runner.

When should I see a doctor for a weekend warrior injury?

It is common for weekend warriors to develop delayed onset muscle soreness and achiness that lasts for a few days after exercise, especially if you are not used to doing a particular activity. However, if your injury is not improving after resting for a few days—or if it is persisting and painful when you are performing daily activities, such as walking, doing laundry, and doing dishes—you should see a healthcare provider for evaluation.

Seeking treatment sooner rather than later will allow you to get a diagnosis and start treatment before further damage occurs. Often, getting medical care for an injury early on can result in a faster recovery and help you avoid more invasive treatment in the future.

How will my doctor treat a weekend warrior injury?

Your healthcare provider will begin by assessing your injury, which may require an x-ray or ultrasound. Your provider will talk to you about how the injury occurred and will ask you about your exercise habits and your injury history. Also, your provider will look for intrinsic and extrinsic factors that may be contributing to your problem.

To put you on a path toward recovery, your healthcare provider will recommend a treatment plan, which may include rest, ice, compression, and elevation (RICE), in combination with exercises, physical therapy, or orthotics—which are devices to correct biomechanical issues—to help you heal. In some cases, surgery may be required to treat your injury or correct an intrinsic problem.

How can I prevent weekend warrior injuries?

To prevent future injuries, I often recommend that weekend warriors work with a physical therapist. Physical therapists are specially trained to identify problems with biomechanics, motion, balance, flexibility, and strength that could lead to injury. A physical therapist can help you understand weaknesses or imbalances in your body and develop a plan that allows you to correct or manage these issues.

Doing exercises to strengthen a muscle or tendon or wearing a special insert in your shoe when running, for example, might be able to save you from being sidelined due to a painful injury—or developing a more serious problem that could eventually require surgery.

When it comes to weekend warrior injuries, the often-quoted Benjamin Franklin saying holds true: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Tune into our Podcast for more information.

Injury Prevention for Weekend Warriors with John Murphy, DO on our Healthier You Podcast

Featuring John Murphy, DO

About UPMC Harrisburg

UPMC Harrisburg is a nationally recognized leader in providing high-quality, patient-centered health care services in south central PA. and surrounding rural communities. UPMC Harrisburg includes seven acute care hospitals and over 160 outpatient clinics and ancillary facilities serving Dauphin, Cumberland, Perry, York, Lancaster, Lebanon, Juniata, Franklin, Adams, and parts of Snyder counties. These locations care for more than 1.2 million area residents yearly, providing life-saving emergency care, essential primary care, and leading-edge diagnostic services. Its cardiovascular program is nationally recognized for its innovation and quality. It also leads the region with its cancer, neurology, transplant, obstetrics-gynecology, maternity care, and orthopaedic programs.

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