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Sports-Specific Injuries

Soccer
A variety of soccer injuries can occur due to field play, sprinting, kicking, and contact injuries. Ankle and knee sprains and injuries are most common, followed by back injuries, thigh and calf contusions, tears, and sprains. ACL tears are up to five times more common in female soccer players than in males. Goalkeepers are at more risk of arm and shoulder sprains and tendon injuries. Meniscus, ligament injuries, and patellar syndromes also occur. Turf toe, footballer's ankle, a pinched nerve in the ankle, inner thigh and hamstring sprains and tears, foot sprains, and stress fractures can also be problematic. Heading the ball can cause head and neck injuries.

To prevent soccer injuries: Balance and agility training is crucial for knees and ankles. Hamstring and quadriceps strength is important to prevent ACL injuries. Fields should be maintained and level. While cross-training, well-cushioned shoes should be worn. Core strength prevents abdominal and back injuries while promoting more powerful kicks. Kicking techniques should be optimum to prevent foot and ankle injuries.

Softball, Baseball, and Fast-Pitch Softball
Shoulder, elbow, wrist, and finger injuries are common due to both overuse and trauma from striking the ball, sliding into bases, or collisions. Ankle sprains are common. The foot-first sliding technique can result in ankle, foot, and knee ligament sprains, tears, and fractures. Sprinting can lead to hamstring and quadriceps sprains and strains. Pitching injuries include shoulder instability, inflammation, and tears, along with Little Leager's elbow, a stress-related bone or ligament injury. Hitting can lead to abdominal muscle tears, back injuries, or rib stress fractures.

To prevent softball and baseball injuries: Upper body strengthening should be done three times weekly, including wrist, elbow, and shoulder muscles. Stretching of the hips, thighs, and legs should be done before and after play. Core strengthening helps prevent hitting injuries. Balance and agility drills should be done to prevent ankle and knee injuries. Proper technique in catching, hitting, throwing, and sliding is essential to prevent traumatic and overuse injuries. Pitchers should be rotated and allowed to rest some games to avoid overuse injuries.

Swimming
Swimmer's shoulder is the most frequently occurring overuse injury with components of impingement, tendinitis, bursitis, and instability. Breaststrokers can develop knee pain, including patellofemoral pain and MCL strains and sprains. Butterfly kicking can lead to back pain and spondylolisthesis. Finger jams can occasionally occur from striking lane lines or other swimmers. A frequent medical problem is swimmer's ear. Exercise-induced asthma can be irritated by the chemicals used in pool maintenance. The heavy training schedule and focus on body shape contributes to eating disorders. A relatively safe sport with no real risk of trauma, overall body injuries from improper cross-training occur almost as frequently as those due to overuse injuries in swimming.

To prevent swimming injuries: Rotator cuff strengthening is the number one recommended exercise and should be done at least three times weekly. Overstretching of the shoulders should be avoided, as swimmers are already prone to loose shoulder joints. For breaststrokers with knee pain, patellofemoral exercises should be done three times weekly. Abdominal and core strengthening is also important, especially in long-distance swimmers and stroke swimmers. Other swimming injuries have been attributed to nontraditional cross-training exercise. Overuse injuries are the most common, and rest is essential at least one day a week. Older swimmers should cross-train with land weight-bearing exercise to prevent osteoporosis. Swimmers should also perform balance exercises, as this is a common deficit in swimmers.

Tennis
Overuse injuries of the wrist, shoulders, spine, legs, and feet, along with acute injuries, are common in tennis due to the quick, multidirectional, explosive nature of the sport. Tennis elbow (outer elbow pain) is the most widely known due to improper racket grip, tension, and poor technique. Other types of shoulder, wrist, and elbow tendinitis are also quite common. Core muscle sprains and tears can occur, along with back pain due to lumbar sprain, sacroilliitis, and disc problems. Tennis leg, calf muscle tears, Achilles tendinitis, and plantar fasciitis is also quite common. Ankle sprains occur frequently. Turf toe and tennis toe can also occur.

To prevent tennis injuries: Shoulder and wrist strengthening should be done three times weekly in the frequent tennis player. Calf and leg stretching after a short warmup is recommended before play. Balance drills prevent ankle sprains; core strengthening prevents abdominal muscle and back injuries. Equipment should also be appropriate; shoes should provide adequate cushioning and multidirectional support. Racket grip and string tension should be appropriate, particularly in players prone to tennis elbow. Correct technique and form, including hitting the ball in front of the body and minimizing wrist use, will prevent overuse injuries in the arm and shoulder.

Triathlon
Races combining swimming, biking, and running require many hours of training and result in overuse injuries associated with each sport, along with the traumatic injuries associated with biking. Specific to triathlons, the combination of open water swimming and cycling can cause chronic neck and shoulder pain, including nerve and muscle impingements. Running injuries are common and include plantar fasciitis and iliotibial band syndrome. Patellofemoral pain can develop due to running and cycling at intense levels. Eating disorders can be common, along with dehydration, anemia, and low sodium levels, secondary to the endurance nature of training and events.

To prevent triathlon injuries: Rest and flexibility is crucial. For ultra and endurance events, it is better to be slightly undertrained than overtrained, to reduce the incidence of chronic, overuse injuries. Event training should be seasonal, with at least a few months off a year to allow the body to heal and rest. The triathlete should rest at least one day a week and eat enough calories with slightly higher protein, iron, and B vitamins due to heavy endurance training. Calcium and dietary fat should be adequate to protect bones. Triathletes must also drink plentiful amounts of fluids, including electrolytes throughout training and throughout the day to replace what is lost. Proper equipment, cycle positioning, and frequent replacement of running shoes with proper support is essential. Thorough stretching two to three times weekly is important to prevent limited motion and pain.



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From The Active Woman's Health and Fitness Handbook by Nadya Swedan. Copyright © 2003 by Nadya Swedan. Used by arrangement with Perigee, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

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