One injury can lead to another

When athletes sustain an injury, the focus is often on the rehabilitation and prevention of that same injury. What many people don’t realise is that an initial injury can lead to a subsequent injury in a different area. This consequently reduces the ability of the athlete to train and compete for prolonged periods.

Our tissues respond positively to load that is applied in a consistent and graduated fashion. When injury occurs, the intensity, frequency and duration of loading is reduced. Not only do we lose our fitness but our tissue strength decreases as well and adapts to the ‘new’ lower level loading. If high level training and competition are resumed before adequate tissue adaptation and strengthening has taken place, then the risk of re-injury is likely.

Raysmith and Drew (2016) found that if two or more injuries were sustained within a season, the probability of the athlete achieving success was reduced by 68%. A good example is Sally Pearson’s lead up to the 2016 Rio Olympics. Her training was disrupted due to a fractured wrist and she subsequently went on to develop calf and Achilles problems. The final blow was a hamstring tear a few weeks before the Olympics, with Sally choosing to pull out rather than compete at a sub-optimal level.

Take home message: if you sustain an injury, don’t just “rest” it. For an optimal outcome, seek out a physiotherapy assessment to obtain a diagnosis and determine the extent of your injury. Your rehabilitation programme will need to address any strength, range, endurance, speed, proprioceptive and biomechanical deficits. Your training workload will need to be monitored and adjusted, along with your rehabilitation programme, so ensure you follow your treatment through to completion. Once discharged, it is likely you will need to continue with various prevention strategies to incorporate into your training regime.