Pilates reformer

Common Injuries in Elite Sports and How to Train Around Them

No matter what sport you compete in, you can suffer from minor strains and sprains as well as experience concussions and traumatic injuries, all of which impact your training and ability to compete. The biggest concern for elite athletes who are trying to maintain their contract or make the cut for a scholarship or world competition is how to continue training despite being injured.

While your doctors and coaches will implement a plan to treat every type of injury and get you back to competition as soon as possible, you know that any break from training can affect your level of performance. However, you need not worry if your support team incorporates workouts on a Pilates reformer.

This post introduces you to some common injuries that elite athletes experience in major, competitive sports and shows you how Pilates equipment can help keep your training moving in a positive direction so you can safely return to your sport as competitive as ever.

Pilates reformer

Common Injuries Elite Athletes Suffer in Competitive Sports

When athletes reach an elite level of competition, they are training hard nearly every day. High-intensity workouts take on a whole new level of meaning when your goal is a scholarship, world competition, or a pro contract, and your whole life is dedicated to your sport. From eating and sleeping to workouts and how you spend your free time, all are impacted by your goal for your sport.

All of that comes to a screeching halt with injuries, and for many athletes, the most common injuries are a result of overuse. Some sports have overuse injuries so common that they’re named after the sport. Injuries like runner’s knee, swimmer’s shoulder, and tennis elbow are just a few examples of how overuse can lead to injury.

The line between training hard enough and the overuse of certain joints and muscle groups can be a difficult balance to strike, especially in peak training season. From drills to weight training, each sport has specific movements that have to be performed repeatedly to either get the movement just right or to strengthen a muscle group to make your movements quicker and more powerful.

Getting an idea of what types of injuries you might be facing can empower you to reduce your risk of ever experiencing them. Understanding what risks you face can also prompt you to have open discussions with your training and support staff. That way, you can discover the types of therapy-focused training programs you can participate in if you do get injured to keep your training on track as much as possible.

Common Basketball Injuries

It may not look like it to fans because it doesn’t involve the padding and tackles you see in football, but basketball is a physical sport. Basketball players are used to getting jammed fingers, cuts, and bruises from the contact they get while competing, but when it comes to injuries that keep you off the court, knee injuries rank as the most common.

What makes basketball so fun to watch is what makes it so damaging to the crucial ligaments that keep your knee working. The stop-and-go running, split-second pivots, sudden stops to queue up for a shot, and continuous jumping and landing all put stress on your knees. The ACL—anterior cruciate ligament—can suffer serious injury, including a tear that could even end your career.

You can’t quit performing drills and making the explosive movements necessary to perform at an elite level, but knowing that your knees can take a beating that can lead to serious damage requiring surgery or retirement from the sport helps you understand better how to focus your training to reduce your risk of injury.

Common Football Injuries

Football players use pads for a reason—this sport requires sustaining full contact at high speeds, and while concussions and traumatic injuries take center stage, football players sustain overuse injuries most commonly.

From elite high school players to college to pro, athletes in this sport suffer from lower back pain and knee issues from overuse. Just consider how players line up for every play, plowing forward into their opponents, and it’s no wonder that back and knee complaints are so commonplace. Shoulder issues are an additional common injury that most linemen become accustomed to.

While football players can suffer traumatic injuries to their knee ligaments, overuse is typically the underlying cause that gives way to a torn ACL, PCL, or cartilage in the knee. Because of the beating their knees take, football players need to keep careful watch over their training program to ensure they work in tactics to reduce their risk of injury to the spots that take the brunt of physical contact and use—their knees, lower backs, and shoulders.

Pilates reformer

Common Swimming Injuries

While many tout how swimming offers a low-impact form of exercise, elite swimmers have been training at high-performing levels longer than most other athletes. From as young as six, swimmers are grouped by speed and ability resulting in elite athletes even in their early teen years.

With their growing bodies subject to swimming repetitive motions for thousands of yards each week, swimmers see a lot of shoulder injuries due to overuse. While there are several causes for shoulder pain in swimmers, they are grouped under one name: swimmer’s shoulder. And because some swimming movements aren’t natural, like the kick used in breaststroke, swimmers specializing in that stroke often suffer from “breaststroker’s knee.”

Many swimmers lack the mobility in their hips to perform some of the flexible movements necessary for quick, powerful turns and strong powerful kicks, leading to hip flexor and lower back complaints as well. Even though their sport is low impact, swimmers need careful consideration of the joints that bear the brunt of their challenging workouts day after day.

Common Soccer Injuries

Soccer players have some unique distinctions in their overuse injuries. Because their bones can become weak from overuse, it’s often difficult to tell whether an injury is a stress fracture or a soft-tissue injury. Soccer players engage in very physical competition and can suffer a lot of muscle pains and strains, but when it comes to overuse, like many athletes, their knees are a common complaint.

Soccer players don’t just run and pivot and make movements similar in scope to a basketball player, but they also use their knees to produce forceful kicks against the ball, adding further stress to all the components that keep that joint in good working order.

Common Baseball Injuries

While many sports see knee problems from overuse the only baseball player that suffers significant knee complications is the catcher. Squatting for lengths of time and jumping up at a split second can wreak havoc on a catcher’s knees, but for most players, overuse injuries are seen in the shoulder and elbow.

While a baseball player, like any other athlete, is prone to strains and sprains on the field, it doesn’t take much imagination to see how their constant throwing and swinging a bat can cause repetitive injuries to their shoulders and elbows.

How a Pilates Reformer Enhances Injury Prevention and Recovery

Although all elite athletes have common overuse injuries due to specific movements in their sports, at a high-performance level, those players are giving their entire bodies a thorough workout. While understanding where the overuse occurs is helpful, players can’t just take time off from their sport. Whether injured or at risk of injury, taking time away from training and competition can be the difference between securing a contract, winning a gold medal, getting a scholarship, or not.

Your coaches, trainers, and support staff are there to help keep you healthy so that you can compete, but it may be difficult to determine when your body needs a break or is on the brink of an injury. So the best way for you to stay healthy is to have a solid plan for injury prevention and care, and a Pilates reformer goes hand in hand with this plan:

  • Follow best practices to reduce the risk of injury. You can’t stop training, but you can ensure your form is good and that you’re using equipment properly. Using a Pilates reformer to increase your strength and mobility can add another layer of protection against injury.
  • Find ways to train through injuries. Physical therapists and trainers alike use reformers to keep athletes training while injured as well as to rehab their injuries.
  • Utilize active recovery days. Since training never stops but you need time to let your body recover, a Pilates reformer gives you the active recovery you need between days of high-intensity workouts.

Unlike any other piece of athletic equipment, a Pilates reformer helps you reduce your risk of injury as well as effectively train while injured. Regardless of what sport you compete in, a reformer can enhance your injury prevention efforts as well as your recovery if you do become injured. While your coach and trainers are the experts, you know your body best. Using a reformer to consistently strengthen your muscles and increase your mobility lays a strong foundation for a healthy body and competitive success at an elite level.

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