Musculoskeletal Health

31st March 2016

Systematic reviews in the last decade, published in scientific journals, have concluded that the most common running related injuries are:

  • MEDIAL TIBIAL STRESS SYNDROME
  • ACHILLES TENDINITIS
  • ACHILLES TENDINOPATHY
  • PLANTAR FASCIITIS
  • PATELLOFEMORAL SYNDROME

Reviews looking at amateur and professional cyclists found the most common cycling related injuries are:

  • KNEE INJURIES SUCH AS BURSITIS, CHONDROMALACIA PATELLA, ITB SYNDROME AND VARIOUS TENDINOPATHIES.
  • ACHILLES TENDONITIS
  • PLANTAR FASCIITIS
  • ULNAR NEUROPATHY (CYCLISTS PALSY)
  • LOW BACK PAIN
  • NECK & SHOULDER PAIN

Common swimming injuries include:

  • SWIMMERS SHOULDER (IMPINGEMENT, LABRAL TEARS, SUPRESPINATUS TENDINOPATHY)
  • LOW BACK PAIN
  • DEGENERATIVE DISCS
  • PATELLA TENDONITIS.

Professional and elite amateur runners, cyclists and swimmers suffer various musculoskeletal injuries more often and to a greater extent when compared to the normal population. However, whereas pro athletes often have a team of well-trained physiologists, physiotherapists and soft-tissue experts keeping their musculoskeletal systems in good order the amateur often does not have the time or the resources to attend properly to their stretching, mobilisations and soft-tissue release work. Consequently easy to remedy soft-tissue issues can become more tricky joint and hard tissue issues which, if ignored, may eventually require surgery or, worse still, prevent the athlete from training or competing.

Refer to your PERIODISED TRAINING PLAN. Look at your weekly cycle. How many minutes or hours are you spending performing repetitive movements either on the road, in the saddle or in the water? 1 hours cycling at a cadence of 90RPM equals 5,400 pedal strokes. If these pedal strokes are being performed with either the seat set up incorrectly, a tight ITB or a weak extensor chain (the posterior group of muscles including the hamstrings and back extensors) then the riders knee and/or hip could be going through unnecessary wear and tear increasing the likelihood of injury and/or inflammation. Now consider how many minutes or hours are spent performing contract-relax stretches or releasing soft tissue using a foam roller. If you are like many of athletes that visit SSC at UCS then there will be a serious imbalance between exercise and recovery strategies. Success is not built on hammering away hour after hour on the road or bike but by having a well-rounded program incorporating a sensible musculoskeletal maintenance program.

It is beyond the scope of this article to tackle all these issues but one area that often keeps athletes side-lined and is common to runners, cyclists and swimmers, is the lower back.

Lower back pain can caused by muscle imbalances in other parts of the body. Tight hip flexors, quadratus lumborum spasms and various hip and hamstring issues can all cause lower back pain and in some instances cause some muscles of the back to go into spasm. These spasms can be very painful and bring on an antalgic posture (the body is kinked to one side above the pelvis) or a forward lean (in order to reduce pressure on the discs).

In all cases I would recommend a visit to your GP or a Physiotherapist in order to rule out something more serious however in the meantime there are certain soft-tissue release strategies you can employ as outlined below.

TAKE HOME POINTS

  • Use a FOAM ROLLER. Download the free FOAM ROLLER guide from sportscienceconsultants.com/resources.
  • Learn how to stretch your hip flexors and differentiate between these and the quads.
  • Learn how to employ the contract-relax stretching protocol. Static stretching is useful at the end of a workout to prevent further loss of range of motion (ROM) but there is no evidence to suggest that static stretching can restore lost ROM. Contract-relax stretching can assist in regaining lost ROM.
  • Get your core muscles working and the stabilising muscles of your joints such as the rotator cuff muscle group. This will allow the movement muscles to recover and will help restore optimal joint alignment.
  • Book a Musculoskeletal Assessment as soon as the season finishes so you can address any issues during Off-Season. Remember MS issues can seriously affect Movement Economy.

ssc_full_logoRichard Brennan isĀ  managing director of Sport Science Consultants Ltd. He is a clinically trained Exercise Physiologist with a BSc. in Sport Science and an MSc. in Sport & Exercise Physiology. Click here to read his biography.