As the evenings get longer and lighter, throwing ourselves into a new sport or exercise regime might seem like the healthiest way to counteract all those hours spent slumped over a computer screen, or in front of Netflix. But this all-or-nothing approach to physical activity can spell disaster when it comes to sports injuries.
Our bodies are designed to move little and often throughout the day, but with our increasingly sedentary lifestyles, we seem to be going from one extreme to another. Many injuries reported to physiotherapists are suffered by ‘weekend warriors’: people who spend nine hours a day stuck behind a desk before going home and consuming a bottle of wine, but then jumping feet first into some fairly intense sport or exercise at the weekend.
The scourge of the novice road runner, shin splints, are exercise-induced pains felt along the shinbone (tibia) as a result of frequent and intense periods of exercise when your body isn’t used to it. Often brought on by an increase in frequency, intensity or duration they can be very painful. To prevent shin splints you should stretch your calves prior to running, avoid heel-striking and run on grass if possible.
With the tennis season in full swing, courts up and down the country are packed with inspired amateurs channeling their inner Andy Murray. But for some players, tennis mania can induce tennis elbow. The injury, which can also be caused by golf, often occurs after strenuous overuse of the muscles and tendons of the forearm, near the elbow joint.
Try to avoid using your wrist and elbow more than the rest of your arm by spreading the load to the larger muscles of your shoulder and upper arm. Consider using a double-handed backhand, or change the loading of the strings, perhaps try a golf lesson to check whether you’re using your hips in the right way.
Hamstrings are three very important muscles in the back of the thigh but with our increasingly immobile lifestyles, sitting for long periods of time with our knees bent at 90 degrees, our hamstrings are in very shortened positions all day long. Hamstring injuries can be caused by a number of different reasons, such as a repetitive injury, an over-stretch or simply because you haven’t warmed up sufficiently.
Bear in mind your seating position at work, consider stretching, staying well conditioned and lengthening the muscle slowly through the movement to avoid an overstretch problem. Once you have problems with your hamstring, it can trouble you for the rest of your sporting life so it’s vital to stretch them out prior to exercise and warm them down afterwards too.