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Bookmark This: What to Do if Your Springtime Workout Goes Awry

Photo credit: iStock/ti-ja

Photo credit: iStock/ti-ja

With the Broad Street Run behind us, Philadelphians have officially transitioned into the outdoor workout season: weekend hikes, office softball leagues and long trail runs. But while spring and summer are chock-full of ways to break a sweat, it doesn’t diminish the fact that many of us only do low-impact exercise like the elliptical during the winter. The seasonal transition can mean bad news for regular exercisers.

To prevent injuries and ensure safe springtime workouts, we chatted with Thomas Trojian, MD, FACSM, CAQSM, a sports medicine specialist at Drexel Sports Medicine. Here, he explains how to avoid muscle overuse and what to do if you experience an injury.

You’re a team physician at Drexel so you’re working with athletes who are in peak condition, but I’m curious — what injuries are most common for recreational athletes?

Dr.Trojian: It varies by activity. Runners mostly experience overuse injuries. These include things like stress fractures, but it can also be muscle overuse injuries. One injury that’s very common is iliotibial band syndrome, also called IT band syndrome, which is an overuse injury of the connective tissues that are located on the outer thigh and knee. Another problem that is common with runners is problems with kneecap tracking. You get irritation of the cartilage underneath the knee which causes kneecap irritation, also known as patellofemoral pain syndrome.

Cycling is a common activity in the spring and it’s mostly, again, knee-related, so mostly IT band syndrome because of the repetitive turning. That’s one of those syndromes where making sure you have a proper bike fit and a serviced bike is important. As with running, a lot of the injuries can be either treated or prevented by having a good running mechanic analysis. You know, Drexel Physical Therapy has a Best of Philly award for their running mechanic analysis –

Indeed! I believe my colleague at Philadelphia magazine tested it.

Running analysis can be helpful. We do a lot of assessments when we are treating an injury because when somebody gets hurt, sometimes it’s obvious what happened: they fell, went boom and you say “just don’t fall again.” But other times it’s not so obvious, and you can treat the injury and make the person better, but you want to prevent it from ever happening again.

Do people typically do the assessment following the injury or is that something you can do preemptively?

You can do both. There’s a number of screenings. The problem is that unless you have something wrong, doing the maintenance exercises isn’t common for people to do, but it’s really good and there are a number of studies that say doing injury prevention work for lower extremity injuries is helpful.

Now, as far as injury prevention is concerned, what is something a reader would be able to do today to start preventing injuries?

In the short term, it’s doing injury prevention programs. FIFA 11+ is a free injury prevention program run by the International Soccer Federation. Their medical arm, what’s known as F-MARC, produces these wonderful videos on injury prevention. The difficulty is that most people don’t do them because it’s time consuming. Friends of mine have said that if you do the first and last exercise and pick a few additional exercises from the middle, and you do them every day, that’s just as good as doing the whole program for 20 minutes, three times a week. I think that’s a great program for people who want to be runners or play sports like basketball, soccer, etc.

What are the glaring injury symptoms?

It’s very common for runners to get mild shin pain. They ice a bit, they start doing their stretches again and hip exercises, and the shin pain goes away – not a problem. But any time shin pain lasts more than half an hour after a run or it starts to creep into your day, or it starts earlier in your run, that’s the kind of thing to address. Or, if you start getting knee pain on the outside of the knee, you should address it. If they’re healthy runners and they start to have knee pain going up and down stairs, that’s when you know they should start to see somebody because you know that’s fixable and when they let it get worse, then they’re out of running.

That’s my pitch in sports medicine — if it starts to creep in to life outside your activity, and you’re delaying seeing a doctor because you’re worried that she or he will say, “Oh, you shouldn’t do your sport or activity,” that’s a self-fulfilling promise because you reach a point where it’s so bad that the tissue can’t get better while you do your activity. Seeing a sports medicine physician earlier will allow treatment while still training.

So persistence of pain during non-activity is a big problem?

Or if it starts to progressively worsen. So if you’re starting to go for a five-mile run and now the pain is starting to bother you earlier at the two-mile mark, then the one-mile mark, or it’s starting to go all the way through your workout, that’s also a sign to seek care.

For more information about finding a sports medicine physician at Drexel Medicine, click here.

This interview has been condensed for length.