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5 common fitness injuries and how to prevent them

An active life is always a good idea. But you need to also make sure that your fitness routine isn't causing injuries.

You can avoid fitness injuries quite easily.
You can avoid fitness injuries quite easily. (Istockphoto)

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Exercise and sports are a fantastic way to lead an active life. You not only enjoy better physical health, but an active life also boosts mental health, improves your immunity, and your strength. However, working out also comes with the inevitable risk of picking up an injury. Most injuries happen due to poor form, lack of concentration, poor pacing, ego lifting. Basically, all of the reasons for injuries can be avoided.

What kind of injuries you are likely to suffer depends on your choice of exercise or sport. For example, if you are a runner or play football, the injuries you are likely to suffer are very different from what strength training or playing cricket could lead to. “Gym and boot camp enthusiasts are particularly susceptible to injuries due to the high intensity and variety of exercises involved,” says Vaibhav Daga, head of sports science and rehabilitation, and sports medicine consultant at the Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital in Mumbai. Here are the five most common injuries associated with strength training and boot camp-style workouts.

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Sprains and strains: These are the most common injuries among gym and boot camp enthusiasts, says Daga. Sprains and strains occur when a muscle or ligament is stretched beyond its limit, leading to pain and swelling. These injuries can be caused by a sudden movement, improper form, or the overuse of a muscle group. Sprains are also often caused by poor infrastructure such as uneven surface and damaged equipment. Who doesn’t know a friend who has suffered a sprained ankle due to broken pavement or potholes?

The fix: Rest, ice, compression, and elevation (RICE) is the standard treatment for sprains and strains. Daga recommends that those who suffer from sprain and/or strains should take a break from the exercise that caused the injury and give the affected area time to heal. “Over-the-counter pain medication and physical therapy can also help speed up the recovery process,” he adds.

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Prevention strategy: The best way to avoid sprains and strains is to properly warm up before exercising and preparing the muscles for the upcoming workout. If you want to increase the intensity, load and duration of the workout, do so gradually, advises Daga. Also, ensuring proper form and technique during exercises and using proper equipment and footwear will help prevent sprains and strains.

Knee injuries: Knee injuries are common, due to the high impact and intensity of exercises. These injuries can range from mild strains to severe ligament tears, warns Daga. These can be caused while performing squats, shuttle runs, and various jumping movements.

The fix: The treatment for a knee injury depends on the severity of the injury. Rest, ice, compression, and elevation are the standard treatments for mild to moderate injuries. However, in case of severe injuries, surgery followed by rehab could also be necessary.

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Prevention strategy: Remember to warm up. Also, make sure you don’t overextend the knee joint, especially while landing during jumping workouts. If you are squatting with heavy weights, always have a spotter around or a safety catch in case you fail so that you don’t collapse under the weight.

Lower back injuries: These can be caused by movements such as squats, deadlifts, high pulls, push-press, military press, and also complex Olympic lifts such as clean and jerk and snatch. These injuries can range from mild strains to herniated discs, says Daga. 

The Fix: The treatment for a lower back injury depends on the severity of the injury, but like with strains and sprains, the first treatment protocol is rest, ice, and physical therapy for mild to moderate injuries. Severe injuries require assessment by qualified medical expert and might require surgery.

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Prevention strategy: Warm up, can’t stress this enough. Avoid ego lifting, especially while attempting deadlifts and squats. Never attempt too much (both reps and load-wise), too soon, to prevent overuse injuries. If you feel a twitch, avoid exercises that put excessive strain on the lower back, such as heavy deadlifts and squats.

Foot and ankle injuries: Foot and ankle injuries are among the most common injuries out there and can range from mild sprains to severe ligament tears. 

The Fix: The treatment for an ankle injury depends on the severity of the injury. Compression, rest, and ice are the standard treatments for mild to moderate injuries. Severe injuries like fractures or ligament tears can call for medical intervention and a long period of recovery and rehab.

Prevention strategy: Wearing proper footwear for the exercise you are performing is important. Some exercises can be performed barefoot, too but then you expose yourself to the risk of crushing your toes under weights being carelessly dropped in the gym by yourself or others.

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Shoulder injuries: Shoulder injuries can range from mild strains to severe tears and can be caused by a variety of factors including overuse, improper form, and lack of warm-up. It can cause a range of symptoms including pain, weakness, stiffness, and limited range of motion in the shoulder joint. The severity of symptoms will depend on the type and severity of the injury. Exercises involving shoulders such as push-ups, shoulder press, military press, push press, bench press, high pulls, snatch and clean and jerk, can lead to shoulder injuries. 

The fix: Start with icing and avoiding upper body workouts if you have sustained a shoulder injury. If the pain is severe, consult a medical expert as it might require specialist care and intervention.   

Prevention strategy: Preventing shoulder injuries in gym and boot camp enthusiasts involves warming up and cooling down properly. Use proper form, avoid overuse of the joint, and increase intensity gradually. Strengthen your shoulder muscles, avoid repetitive overhead movements, and take rest days.

Shrenik Avlani is a writer and editor and the co-author of The Shivfit Way, a book on functional fitness.

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