Injury Types and Tires

Injuries are on the rise and many, if not most, are preventable. To prevent injuries, we need to better understand why they occur in the first place. Some injuries can be the result of just plain bad luck and can happen to anyone. It is like getting hit by lightening. These are the acute injuries. Falling off a bike, suddenly spraining your ankle after landing on another basketball player's foot, and getting tackled hard and injuring your knee are all examples of these acute traumatic injuries.

The more common type of injury are overuse type injuries. These are usually not sudden in nature but rather occur from repetitive overuse of a body part. Examples include tennis elbow, shoulder rotator cuff tendonitis and impingement syndrome, Achilles tendonitis in runners, and even stress fractures. I believe that the majority of these injuries are preventable.

Overuse injuries usually occur because of a sudden change in intensity, duration, or frequency of an activity, which occurs more rapidly than the body's ability to adapt to that change. The body is pretty remarkable in its ability to adapt and get stronger, but sometimes the system is overwhelmed and breakdown occurs.

Other changes in your routine should be assessed when an overuse injury happens. Are you running or dancing on a different surface? Are you wearing new sneakers (different brand or type)? Are you working with a new coach with different training techniques?

To be successful properly treating overuse injuries, and preventing their common recurrence, you need to be a bit of a detective and look at that training or technical issues that got you into trouble in the first place. Only by addressing those issues will you be successful in resolving this problem for the long term. Also, both acute and overuse injuries can be prevented with year round balanced conditioning programs, the use of good technique and safety equipment, and learning to listen to your body for early signs of overuse or overload.

One way to better understand different injury types is to think of a tire analogy. An acute injury to a tire would be a normal otherwise healthy new tire that runs over a large nail and gets a blowout, which is hard to prevent. The overuse example would be an older car with worn tires that has not had checkups and because of repetitive use and misuse, the tire eventually gives way either suddenly or perhaps overnight and you notice a flat tire in the morning before driving to work.

Another example of how tires can get into trouble includes a combination of the overuse and acute concepts. A brand new car with a wheel alignment problem may develop abnormal wear patterns on one tire which will eventually fail. The problem here is that a perfectly good tire was put in a situation where there was other, i.e. alignment, issues. If that car is a mini van that is used minimally, that tire may never get into trouble, or it may take a long time. If it is a Ferrari on a race track, with even a slight alignment issue, that high performance vehicle could blow out its tire on one lap. This is why higher level athletes, or athletes in intense training, may get into trouble with relatively minor anatomic alignment issues or subtle changes in their training. Again, the key, for both you and your car, is good preventive maintenance so you can stay on the road for the long haul.