With seniors and every other age group, more active than ever, it pays to be aware of the potential for injury. Although we aren’t all professional athletes, activities such as jogging, racquetball, weight lifting, and even power walking can still cause injury. Dare I say it Pilates and barre classes. The feeling of accomplishment after working out is great, but working out too hard can lead to a sports injury, which may require medical attention.
Some exercise-related injuries occur due to a lack of proper training, conditioning, the absence of stretching before a workout, misuse of equipment and there are just accidents. Some sports injuries are chronic, meaning they occur over a long period of time. These injuries can occur after years of training or exercise and are usually the result of repetitive movements or activities such as jogging, throwing, or dancing. These movements usually cause stress on our ankles, knees, shoulders, or hips. There are several injuries associated with the term “chronic injuries” that could be stress fractures or tendonitis. If these types of injuries are not attended to immediately, they tend to get worse over time.
Other sports injuries are more acute. Acute injuries, such as a sprained ankle, back, or fractured wrist can occur suddenly while you are participating in a sports activity. Acute injuries are recognizable by a sudden, serious pain, redness, and swelling. Someone who has experienced an acute injury is usually unable to place weight on the injured area. They will also be unable to move the joint through its full range of motion. Some acute sports injuries have a visible dislocation or break of a bone. Acute injuries can occur outside of the realm of exercise as well and when seniors fall, a similar outcome can occur. It is important to fall proof your house to reduce the risk of falling.
If you experience a sports injury, seek medical treatment as soon as possible. Depending on the severity of the injury, some will require immediate attention by a medical professional. You could end up with a cast or brace. After leaving the medical facility, a person will need to follow the R.I.C.E. plan to make sure the injury properly heals. The R.I.C.E. plan involves rest, ice, compression, and elevation. Resting you and your body will give the tissue time to heal. Ice will also need to be applied periodically to a soft tissue injury. Ice can be applied to the injury wrapped in a towel for no more than 20 minutes at a time. Using a thin material like a washcloth or towel between the ice and your skin will help control the swelling and redness of an injury without the risk of frostbite. Compression is advised through the use of an ACE bandage or medical wrapping. However, if you feel that the bandage is too tight (perhaps you feel a throbbing feeling) then you should re-wrap the swollen area. Elevation can help control swelling if the injured limb is placed above the level of the heart.
Once you have followed the R.I.C.E. steps and let the injured limb heal, light massages to the injured area can help reduce scar tissue and improve the healing of the soft tissue. Gentle stretches that test the full range of the limb’s motion are suggested. Overstretching an injured limb can run the risk of injuring it again. Physical therapy can be a great benefit because it will help you stretch in a controlled environment. The idea of stretching an injured limb is to help heal, and one should not try to force a stretch. A Physical Therapist can help you properly rehabilitate your injured limb and avoid overworking it.
You can also work to prevent injuries by properly warming up. Stretching after exercising and as part of cool down in class. It is never a good idea to arrive later and leave early. We also want to be constant with your exercise routine. It is hard on your body to work out once a week all out as hard as you can for three hours on Saturday. You also want to cross-train so if you are a distance or endurance sport athlete or recreational participant Pilates is your friend. It will provide strengthening, stretching, and balance training. These will all help you prevent future injuries and rehab from any current injuries
Written by Allison Zang and Max Gottlieb is the content manager for Senior Planning