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When Good Exercise Goes Bad, Part 1

Common Sports Injuries and How To Avoid Them

By  Dr. Jon Thomas D.C PSc.D, Board Certified Chiropractic Physician.

Courtesy Wikimedia
Exercise is generally a healthy activity. However, if exercises aren’t done correctly, injuries can result. The most common sports related injuries are due to overuse and strain. Excessive wear and tear on the body, particularly on areas subjected to repetitive activity such as the ankle, knee, shoulder, and elbow joints can strain those parts of the body. 

Running leads to injuries more than any other form of exercise. Biking, dance (including high impact aerobics), tennis, basketball, gymnastics, football, soccer, and skating also lead to substantial numbers of injuries. Here are some of the most common injuries related to exercise and tips on how to avoid them.

Muscle Pulls

Courtesy Wikiimedia
Strained and pulled muscles result from overexertion or excessive extension of a muscle. When a sudden, severe force is applied, the fibers in a muscle may be stretched beyond their capacity. This can happen during exercise or any other strenuous activity. Muscles that are commonly strained include the groin, rotator cuff, hamstring, calf, and knee muscles.

Warm up exercises before strenuous activities can reduce the likelihood of pulling muscles. People sometimes exercise too hard and too fast before their bodies have had an opportunity to warm up.  Even when you warm up and stretch, you may pull a muscle from strain, a slip, or overuse. Stretching after you exercise is important as it brings new blood flow into muscles and helps to remove toxins and lactic acid from the muscles.

Ice can be used to relax a pulled muscle and relieve spasms. When the injured muscle can be stretched as far as the healthy one on the other side of the body without causing pain, it is safe to return to exercising.

Neck Strain

Courtesy Wikimedia
Tennis players sometimes experience neck strain from looking up repetitively to serve. Cyclists and mountain bike riders may also experience neck strain and stiffness from long rides in an awkward position. The pain can make it difficult to move the neck normally.

As with pulled muscles, ice can relieve the discomfort of neck stiffness. Slow and gentle stretching of the neck from side to side and forward and backward can also bring relief. Stretching exercises can also be used to strengthen the neck and improve flexibility.

Lower Back

Lower back injuries can come from heavy lifting, from twisting awkwardly, or from engaging in activities that a person is not accustomed to. Overexerting the back can pull or tear fibers and tendons. This can lead to spasms and cause backaches. Fortunately, many backaches heal up and go away within a few weeks, with or without treatment.

For treatment of serious back injuries, an appointment with a chiropractor is recommended. He or she will be able to diagnose the injury and provide appropriate treatment. A chiropractor can also recommend safe and effective exercises for people with back conditions. Core exercises which strengthen the back and abdominal muscles can increase flexibility and help to prevent back injuries.

Ankle Sprains

Ankle sprains are very common for all sorts of athletes. Sprains involve stretching the ligaments in your ankle. A sprain can come from landing on your foot at an odd angle or with too much force. Walking, running, or playing on uneven surfaces in any physical activity can put you at risk for a sprain. Sports that require sudden changes in direction like football, soccer, and basketball have high incidences of ankle sprains.

The pain can be mild to severe and there may be swelling, bruising, and difficulty in moving the ankle. Minor to moderate ankle sprains normally heal on their own with time. It could take four weeks or more to heal from an ankle sprain. When recuperating from an ankle sprain, it’s a good idea to rest the ankle and apply ice to it.

Eventually, stretching can be done to help the healing. Until the ankle is completely healed, it’s not a good idea to return to strenuous physical activity. If you start pushing yourself before your ankle is healed, you can re-injure the ankle.

There are several things a person can do to minimize the risk of ankle sprains. Stretching and using shoes that fit well can help. Also, it’s important to avoid walking or running on uneven surfaces as much as possible. If you have had an ankle sprain in the past, you might consider precautions like taping up your ankle or using a brace.

Runner's Knee

Runner’s Knee is the most common cause of knee pain. The kneecap normally moves up or down in a groove as the knee flexes or straightens out. When the kneecap is not aligned correctly, it causes pain. This can cause the cartilage around the knee to wear out. Fluid can build up and cause swelling in the knee.

Treatment of knee injuries can include stretching the quadriceps and soft tissue massage on the quadriceps muscle. Exercising to strengthen the quadriceps muscle can help to prevent further knee injuries. Isometric exercises which contract and relax the muscle are a good way to start.

Tennis Elbow - Tendonitis

Tennis elbow is an inflammation of the muscles and tendons of the forearm. It is most often seen among tennis players, golfers, baseball pitchers, and weight lifters. The arm motions required in those sports are somewhat unnatural. When the muscles and tendons are overused, the muscles can become inflamed. 

Surprisingly, changes in footwork can help people who play tennis to reduce the risk of Tennis Elbow. Good footwork can put the player in the proper position to hit with his or her full weight behind the ball. Good footwork takes the stress off the elbow during a tennis stroke and follow through. Golfers can also reduce the likelihood of elbow problems by improving their stroke.

Exercises including wrist curls and squeezing a soft rubber ball can strengthen the forearm muscles and reduce the risk of getting Tennis Elbow.

Avoiding Injuries

One of the best ways to avoid sports related injuries is to stay in shape, maintain a healthy weight, and avoid activities that might cause injuries. Staying in shape will keep your body stronger and more flexible. Maintaining a healthy body weight will prevent excessive stress on your knees and ankles. Some hazards are associated with physical activity, but being careful will keep the risk to a minimum.

Chiropractic care is also an important factor for athletes of all levels, concentrating on joint alignment and motion is key to reduce injuries, reduce recovery times from workouts, and aid in proper development during training sessions. Chiropractors are able to address issues throughout the body including the extremities like arms and legs.

Using the proper equipment is also very important to reduce injuries as well. Make sure that when exercising the gear you use is in good working order and shows within usable wear markings. If you question the gear, take it to an expert and they will review and suggest any needed improvements.

In this article, I have discussed common sports injuries and how to avoid them. These include pulled muscles, neck strain, lower back injuries, tendonitis, runner's knee, and ankle injuries.

At Vibrant Life, we address all of the key elements to add vibrance and vitality to your life. If you have a comment about this article, please leave it in the comments section of this blog.

Dr. Jon Thomas is a Board Certified Chiropractic Physician, his interest in health started at an early age resulting from an athletic life, including BMX racing, Professional Snow Skiing, Water Skiing, Baseball, Weight Lifting, and Martial Arts. After learning from top health experts in the world, Dr. Thomas’s life is dedicated to reaching people of all ages to begin their life transformation. The goal is to start the body healing resulting in a body that is functioning at its optimal.  In addition to serving his community in his Mandarin Based Practice, Dr. Thomas is seen regularly on TV’s First Coast Living talking about his patient’s transformations, speaking at events throughout the community, and writing articles to re-shape the health of the Jacksonville Community.


  1. Great stuff... As an older athlete, (much older) and have various aches, pains and strains coming and going all the time. Knee, foot and elbow strains especially. I also know to watch out for these over use issue and I often rely on my chiropractor to keep me in the game.

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  3. As the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. This helpful information probably counts as several ounces of prevention.

  4. When you get older the body doesn't seem to recover as fast as it use to. Thanks for the tips

  5. Lifting bathtubs every day takes a toll. So there is some really helpful stuff in here. Especially about the lower back.

  6. Having suffered a severe knee injury while training for a half-marathon and a shoulder injury from a fall in yoga, I'd say athletic injuries are no joke. These tips should be helpful to avoid future injuries!

  7. As an older fella, I definitely appreciate all the tips to stay away from muscle tears and pulls!! Wish I would of known some of these things earlier on in life! hah!