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Woes of the Weekend Warrior
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Woes of the Weekend Warrior

Whether you are a weekend warrior or much more serious about exercise, knowledge of these five sports-related injuries can help you understand and mitigate their risks and stay in better shape for longer.

HAMSTRING PULL

A hamstring pull can occur in sports such as football, volleyball, golf, tennis and basketball, says veteran sports therapist Professor Justin Morais, who manages the Sports Acupuncture Centre in Hougang Central. A Singapore football striker during the 1940s and 1950s, he is sympathetic to what ails sportsmen and sportswomen.

“The hamstring can become overstretched by movements such as kicking the leg out sharply or sudden deceleration when running,” he advises. “Hamstring muscles often become ‘pulled’ when an athlete overuses or overstretches them. You’re likely to pull a hamstring during activities that involve a lot of running and jumping, or sudden stopping and starting.”

Hamstring injuries can take anywhere between three and six months to heal; on occasion, it can take up to 12 months. The most common reason for such a long recovery period is often due to inadequate physiotherapy and stretching, or returning to activity too early, thus causing injury to recur.

TENNIS ELBOW

The tennis elbow is yet another common sports injury. Doctors know the condition more formally as lateral epicondylitis. It is a painful condition brought about by the overuse of arm, forearm and hand muscles, usually due to repetitive motions in the wrist and arm.

The average healing time, says Prof Morais, is between three and 12 months. “During this time, rest is extremely important to allow the tendons and muscles to heal,” he stresses. “Targeted rehabilitation and stretches are critical for this process, and physical therapy is crucial in strengthening the muscles and allowing you to recover to pre-injury state.”

SHIN SPLINT

This term describes pain felt along the inner edge of your shin bone. The pain is usually concentrated in the lower leg, between the knee and ankle. Shin splints are very common, especially among runners. Runners often get them after ramping up their workout intensity or changing the surface they run on. Sometimes, a shin splint can be mistaken for a stress fracture in the bone.

Prof Morais says the discomfort usually resolves in a few days with rest and limited activity. However, this condition can persist if it is not recognised early and treated. Identifying the root cause of this injury is important. “Running on a softer surface, like a running track, may be beneficial. If you are a heel striker when running and have a flexible flatfoot, an arch support may be required,” he adds. “If a stress fracture develops, surgery may be required. Although rare, there may also be muscle tears, which require surgery.”

ACL TEAR

Another common sports injury is a tear in the ACL, which stands for anterior cruciate ligament. The ACL is a ligament that links the femur (thigh bone) and tibia (shin bone), and provides stability for the knee.

“ACL injuries occur most commonly in sports that involve sudden stops, jumping or changes in direction, such as football, tennis and skiing,” reveals Prof Morais. He adds that surgery is required for a torn ACL to heal.

Rehabilitation is usually focused on reducing pain and swelling, restoring the knee’s full range of motion, and strengthening of muscles, especially hamstrings, quads and glutes.

ANKLE SPRAIN

“Ligaments are the strong, stretchy bands that help stabilise your ankles,” explains Brian Richmond, a radio DJ who played football for the national team and knows a thing or two about ankle injuries (see sidebar). “They hold the bones of your ankle together but allow for some movement. However, if there is too much movement in an abnormal posture, these ligaments can tear and result in a sprain.”

This is a traumatic injury usually caused by accidents or running on uneven terrain. An ankle sprain often happens when you ‘roll’ your foot, causing the ankle ligaments to stretch beyond their limit and tear. Medical specialists suggest that, at the point of injury, the best thing to do would be to apply the RICE method: rest, ice, compression and elevation.

“Remember that any time you step onto the field of play, there is always the possibility of injury. Repeated wear and tear on your body adds up, leading to excessive stress on the muscles and joints that cause injury,” advises Richmond. He adds that it would be wise for those doing sports to learn to distinguish good pain from the bad, including dull pains and excessive fatigue. “Struggling to complete a few more reps may seem like a good idea today, but it could compromise your progress in the long run.”

FROM FOOTBALL TO RADIO

Now in his 70s, broadcast veteran Brian Richmond is still on air these days on Gold 90.5FM. But did you know that he once had a promising career in football?

He captained the youth team and went on to play for the national team for three years. Unfortunately, a broken ankle at the age of 23 forced him to hang up his boots. “I wish I had modern technology to help me recover from the serious ankle injury,” Richmond recalls. “I usually visited the Malay bomoh or Chinese sinseh for a quick fix, but my hairline fracture was so severe I had to give up football. Close to half-century later, ankle sprains and fractures are still among the five leading sports injuries in Singapore.”

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