If you're an adult who participates in a strenuous sport or physical activity on the weekends, you're what's called a "weekend warrior." Getting out and exercising is a good thing — but if, like most Americans, you've been sitting 40 or more hours per week, you're likely to see an injury in your future.
Sports injuries are one of the most common reasons adults — especially baby boomers — see doctors and visit ERs. Why are so many adults getting hurt while having fun?
The answer is simple: you're older than you used to be (and possibly heavier), and the demands of your adult life mean you can't train every day like you did when you were younger and more carefree.
Adults who were fit and injury-free when they were teens or twentysomethings often forget how long it took them to train to the level where they could participate safely.
Remembering their former love of sport (and often, their former competitive drive), they dive into activities when they can find the time, participating at a high level intensity but without the benefit of slow, steady, daily training and conditioning.
Going from a sedentary lifestyle sitting all week at work to suddenly exerting yourself is a shock to the body, especially as you age and especially if you've put on a few pounds. Osteoporosis may also make you more prone to injury.
The result can be aches, pains, pulls, strains, or worse — injuries requiring surgery or physical therapy.
most common weekend warrior athletic injuries
What kind of injuries most commonly affect weekend warriors?
If you don't train daily to improve your flexibility, endurance, and strength, you could be at risk for some of the following. All of these are frequently seen in enthusiastic athletes who do "too much too soon."
Arm and Shoulder Injuries
- Tennis elbow. Also called "golfer's elbow," this injury to the outside of the elbow can cause pain, stiffness, and a limited range of motion.
- Rotator cuff tears. When the ligaments of the shoulder (front or back) break down from repetitive activities or sudden trauma, you may tear your rotator cuff, causing pain and stiffness.
Back and Neck Injuries
- Lower Back Pain. One of the most frequently sustained overuse injuries, lower back pain can be caused by a muscle strain, a back spasm, a slipped or herniated disc, or even osteoarthritis.
- Neck pain. If you're having trouble turning your head or lowering your chin to your chest after working out, you may be experiencing a pulled or strained neck muscle or spasm.
Leg and Knee Injuries
- Achilles tendinitis. As you age, the Achilles tendon becomes less elastic and more prone to inflammation and tears. The shape of your foot's arch and whether you pronate (roll your foot inward) when you walk can also affect your likelihood of injury. Aging and tight leg muscles contribute to this injury as well.
Ankle sprains. Turning or rolling an ankle is one of the most common sports injuries reported by weekend warriors. Be careful when walking, running, or hiking on uneven surfaces, and take care when changing directions suddenly.
- Knee Pain. Runner's knee, meniscus tears, cartilage tears, and ACL injuries commonly affect weekend warriors. As you age, tendons, cartilage, and ligaments in the knee begin to break down, making inflammation and injury more likely.
- Plantar Fasciitis. If you feel a stabbing or burning pain along the bottom of your foot, usually in the heel, you may be suffering from inflammation of the plantar fascia. This condition can be chronic.
Shin splints. Common among runners, these pains in the front of the calf can be brought on by running with tight leg muscles and ligaments. Shin splints are painful but not dangerous; you can treat them at home with RICE therapy.
sports and activities with the highest risks
Orthopedists frequently see patients who've injured themselves participating in:
However, any sports activity — even sports that are better for those with known joint problems — can result in an injury if you're unprepared. Your best chance at exercising safely on the weekends is to practice some simple prevention techniques like those listed below.
5 tips for preventing weekend warrior injuries
"Weekend warrior fitness" doesn't have to be synonymous with "injury." You can exercise or participate in sports in your free time without getting hurt. Here are 5 prevention tips for taking care of yourself to avoid sports injuries when you're working out.
1. Gradually increase your fitness level. Add to your workout by just 10% each week (10% more minutes, repetitions, or weight/resistance). Intensifying your workouts gradually allows your body time to recover and repair.
2. Stretch. Make stretching a regular activity, a few days a week and after every workout. A mix of static and dynamic stretches can improve flexibility and range of motion.
3. Check your gear. Wear safety gear (helmets, knee and elbow pads) to protect your head and bones from sudden falls. Check your sporting equipment (golf clubs, bike frame) to make sure items are in good condition and are the proper size for you. Proper footwear is also important.
4. Hydrate. Many people don't realize the importance of hydrating to avoid injury. Drink enough water every day, and rehydrate after exerting yourself.
5. Be physical more frequently. If you can, try to avoid "couch potato syndrome" by getting up and moving a little during the day every day. Regular activity mixed into your daily routine can go a long way toward keeping your body healthier.
Remember, young, competitive athletes train their bodies daily, gradually building up their endurance, strength, and flexibility over time.
While it's important (and admirable) to exercise when you can, take caution not to over-exert yourself by working out too hard before you're properly conditioned.
A gentle ramp up to full-intensity exercise is safer for your body, no matter what your age. Take it easy, go slow, and listen to your body. "No pain, no gain" isn't necessarily the best motto if you're trying to avoid disability or surgery.
If you have pain or think you've sustained a weekend warrior injury, give Coastal Orthopedics located in Corpus Christi, TX a call. Our orthopedic specialists can examine you, assess your condition, and discuss treatment options. Telephone: 361.994.1166.