Benched by Back Pain: How Sports Injuries Can Ruin Your Gold Medal Bid

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Back pain is one of the most common reasons people—especially athletes—visit doctors. Some sort of injury is almost inevitable for any athlete; even young, healthy athletes have a 25% chance of getting one. Sports injuries are always a threat, but with the Olympics looming around the corner, now’s a perfect time to bring them into the spotlight.

Causes of Sports Injuries

There are some characteristics that make a sport especially risky:

  • Hypertension or over-rotation of the spine
  • Collisions and impacts with objects or people
  • Frequent repetition of a specific movement or stance
  • Explosive, violent actions and movements

Highest-Risk Sports

  • Football: This sport’s exertions and collisions make it a perfect storm for back pain injuries. Of all college sports, it produces the highest rate of lower back pain. The impacts can cause neurological problems that also contribute to back pain.
  • Rugby: This sport can be even more dangerous than football, with many of the same conditions and even less protective gear. It’s tied with football as the leader in cervical spine injuries, and surpasses football in other injuries.
  • Gymnastics: Gymnasts are the most likely of all athletes to report severe back pain; probably because of the obvious strain gymnasts must undergo in a typical routine.
  • Baseball: Pitchers and hitters have to endlessly repeat the same rapid motions in this sport. They’re three times more likely to have back pain than the average person.
  • Weightlifting: 80% of competitive weightlifters complain of lower back pain. Many events require relying heavily on the back to lift hundreds of pounds. Spinal disorders are especially common here.
  • Cycling: Back pain afflicts 30-50% of cyclists. Cyclists must maintain a hunched over position, while maintaining consistent physical exertion; this contributes heavily to back pain.
  • Golf: Though seemingly low-intensity, golf injuries are common among professionals. Most golf injuries are back or neck injuries, with the lower back being the most common. Carrying your own golf bags double the odds of injury.

Some of the other injury contributors include:

  • Tennis
  • Wrestling
  • Boxing
  • Hockey
  • Volleyball

Avoiding Sports Injuries

You can dodge many injuries and lessen the severity of others by taking these precautions:

  • Watch your form. Athletes who use proper technique and form when working out and warming up decrease the odds of a back injury by at least 50%.
  • Stay balanced. Use an exercise program that works your entire body and helps with endurance and strength.  Exercise frequently in moderation rather than occasionally at extreme levels, and gradually increase your intensity. Let your body rest after exercise.
  • See a doctor. One of the most common mistakes athletes make is trying to “work through the pain” or “walk it off.” Consult a doctor right away if you have any doubts as to the severity of an injury.

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