Many of us are guilty of squeezing too many physical activities and recreational sports into the weekend to make up for a lack of exercise during the week. But these strenuous exercises can often lead to harm when the body isn’t prepared for vigorous bursts of activity.
In spring and summer, the number of weekend warrior injuries increases dramatically, especially among men ages 30 to 50. Following are the five most common weekend warrior injuries.
Muscle strains (hamstrings)
Injuries to the hamstring muscles in the back of the thighs are very common in all levels of athletic activity. They account for about 29% of all lower extremity injuries and can be the cause of major pain in the back of the thighs and buttocks.
An acute hamstring injury can be the result of strenuous participation in football, soccer, rugby, basketball, track and field, and gymnastics but can also happen as the result of a fall or other accident. If you experience sudden pain and/or weakness at the back of your thighs, you need to seek medical attention immediately. Specialists at the USC Epstein Family Center for Sports Medicine at Keck Medicine of USC in Los Angeles treat sports-related injuries with customized care and minimally invasive procedures.
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Ankle sprains and strains
High-impact activities can lead to these two common injuries, which are significantly painful. The ankle sustains 1.5 times the body’s weight in impact with every walking step and up to eight times the body’s weight with each step when you’re running or jumping.
The ankle joint features a series of interconnected ligaments, muscles and tendons — all of which can be subject to acute or chronic sprain or strain. When you take part in high-impact activities, the ankle faces increased injury risk, especially when it turns or twists too far out of its normal range of motion. This can be caused by overuse injury, such as repeated hard landings involved in sports such as long-distance running and basketball.
An overuse injury is common in the Achilles tendon, the band of tissue that connects calf muscles at the back of the lower leg to the heel bone. It often occurs in runners who suddenly increase the intensity or duration of their runs during weekends. It’s also prevalent in middle-aged people who play sports such as tennis or basketball only on the weekends.
Most cases of Achilles tendinitis can be treated at home with simple care, under your doctor’s suggestions. It’s highly recommended that you take care of it before participating again in the activities that caused it, as more serious cases of Achilles tendinitis can result in tendon tears, which will require surgical attention.
If you do require more complex treatment, the USC Foot and Ankle Center at Keck Medicine of USC treats foot and ankle problems with a variety of therapies, from shoe modification and anti-inflammatory medications to the foremost surgical procedures.
A rapid change in training, such as increased duration or intensity of running on weekends, can lead to shin splints (medical tibial stress syndrome), which are the most common cause of lower-leg pain in athletes. It’s believed that 5 to 35% of all runners suffer from shin splints.
Shin splints can affect the calf muscles and related tissues in the lower leg. A majority of shin splints can be cured with rest and other home-care methods such as ice and shin sleeves.
Lower back pain
A demanding running stint can also lead to back pain, most commonly in the lower back area. The pain may be the result of strained muscles or trouble with the spine’s vertebrae or discs.
A runner may experience a dull pain, soreness or lack of flexibility in the affected area when the soft tissue becomes fatigued and strained. You may also experience spasms, which can lead to severe pain that prevents regular daily activities, or sciatica, a condition in which the muscle squeezes a nerve root that will radiate pain to the arms or legs.
Strained back muscles can be painful, but they are mostly benign. If you get enough rest and treatment, the pain should subside in two to four weeks
You can treat most of the injuries resulting from weekend warrior activities by following the RICE (rest, ice, compression and elevate) routine. One of the easiest ways to avoid these injuries is to stay active at least a couple of days during the week (try yoga, kickboxing, biking or a fast-paced walk after work).
According to physicians, injury rates could be reduced by 25% if athletes took preventative measures such as warming up, wearing the right gear, playing by the rules, taking breaks and cooling down after workouts or games.
The most important thing you can do is to listen to your body. If you feel a strong or sharp pain, get some rest and take a break. It’s usually a sign that you have pushed your body too far. If the pain continues, you will need to contact your health care professional.
by Ramin Zahed
If you are in the Los Angeles area and are looking for exceptional care from some of the top physicians in the world, be sure to schedule an appointment by calling (800) USC-CARE (800-872-2273) or by visiting keckmedicine.org/request-an-appointment.