May 31, 2016 cburnham

Injury Management for Endurance Athletes

You do endurance sports long enough and the odds are you are going to get hurt.  This may be an overuse injury (which is completely avoidable with basic maintenance on your body) or an acute injury from a crash, fall, or momentarily lapse of judgement (being glycogen depleted doesn’t always help clear thinking).  Recent studies have shown that 35 – 56% of all runners will get an injury each year.  Those numbers are lower for cyclists but injuries still happen.  Broken collar bones, tendonitis, saddle sores, and sore backs are all common issues in cyclists.  While a lot of this is preventable, some of this is inevitable.  Having a tool box ready on how to deal with injuries can make a huge difference in getting through these setbacks.

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Create a team around you.  This can be coaches, chiropractors, physical therapists, bike fitters, surgeons, nutritionists, or general practice MDs.  All of these professionals bring a slightly different perspective.  Most coaches that have been around endurance sports long enough have either had these injuries themselves or athletes that have worked through them.  Their experience can be invaluable in guiding an athlete through the healing process and managing expectations on returning to the sport.  Good coaches should also have their own network of professionals that they have worked with so they can help guide you to professionals with experience working with endurance athletes.  Nutritionist can give athletes recommendations to reduce inflammation and promote healing as well as reduce weight gain with reduced activity.  Chiropractors, Physical therapists, and surgeons all have a slightly different approach, and while one approach may net the most healing, they all may work synergistically to accelerate healing.    I often refer athletes to each of those to get different perspectives on treatment.  Generally speaking, we start less invasive and move to more invasive approaches in most athletes.

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If an athlete is having an overuse injury that may be caused by the bike the first stop should be to your local professional bike fitter.  Ideally the one with the most experience.

One member of this team that can be invaluable is a sports psychologist.  Being injured and prevented from doing the sport you love can be very hard on the head and having someone you can talk to can help reduce stress and keep you on track through the recovery process.  A good sports psychologist can help an athlete work through the feelings of loss, depression, and threat.  These emotions need to be channeled into positive thoughts, and the athlete needs to begin creating a vision of success even through the eventual setbacks that happen in the normal recovery process.  In the long-term, these are valuable skills to have in coping with any adversity.  This is also a good time to reexamine the difference in good versus bad pain.  Good pain is that of exertion and pushing your body to the limit, bad pain is that of injury or inflammation.  Recognizing the difference is key in the long-term rehabilitation of any injury.

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Setbacks and injuries are part of sport and life.  Creating a plan to deal with these setbacks is critical to achieving long-term success.  A good healthy outlook of trying to learn from every situation can increase your resolve, motivation, and resiliency as an athlete and as a person.  Stay positive and confident that you can come out of every setback a stronger person and athlete.

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