There are several things that you can do to help prevent injuries and soreness during the season before it starts. Here are a few that can save you from pain latter:
If Sore or Injured
- Start running before the season starts! - Many injuries occur because athletes are not ready for strenuous activity. Running a little each day or 2-3 times per week will help your body get ready for the higher paced workouts of track practice. Start off running at lower speeds and shorter distances and gradually work up in intensity over a few weeks.
- Stretching - Flexibility helps your body to not be as tight, recover more rapidly, be less sore, and it helps to prevent muscle strains latter.
- Running Shoes - New running shoes are not a requirement for track and field! But, everybody is going to be spending a lot of time running and jumping (Some more than others). Your running shoes play a critical role in in preventing shin splints, ankle pains, hip problems, muscle and leg fatigue. Running shoes do not have to be expensive but if your shoes are getting old, the tread is very worn, or they have very little cushion left in them you may need to think about getting new ones.
- Good shoes for running include: Asics, Saucony, Brooks, but Nike is NOT a very good running shoe, especially if it is made in China. If made in other countries, they are better but the other brands listed are still better. Nike shoes usually have inferior padding and cushioning.
- Weight Lifting - You will be lifting during the season but strengthening your body ahead of time will help prevent injuries and increase your strength and speed.
If injuries are bad or chronic athletes will be requested to be seen by the Athletic Trainer for evaluation. He will diagnose and give procedures to follow for recovery management.
For muscle soreness and lesser pains there are several things that can help such as:
- Ice - After activity 15 min on and 15 min off, repeat a few times. Sometimes icing before activity also helps for some athletes. Stretching while icing increases recovery time a significant amount.
- Ice Buckets - One of the best things to help the recovery of shin and ankle swelling, pain, injury is to totally submerge the foot/shin in a bucket of ice water
- Heat or Moist Heat - Wrap a damp cloth around a rice filled heating bag, hot bath, or heating pad.
- Ibuprofen, Tylenol, or Aleve - Different brands work better for different people
What causes shin splints?
A primary culprit causing shin splints is a sudden increase in distance or intensity of a workout schedule. This increase in muscle work can be associated with inflammation of the lower leg muscles, those muscles used in lifting the foot (the motion during which the foot pivots toward the tibia). Such a situation can be aggravated by a tendency to roll your foot excessively inward onto the arch.
Similarly, a tight Achilles tendon or weak ankle muscles are also often implicated in the development of shin splints. Worn out or incorrect foot wear can help cause, intensify, or increase you risk of getting shin splints.
Treatment of Shin splints
- Treatment of shin splints requires a multifaceted approach.
- Application of ice packs, ice rubbed on the painfull area and ice bucketing reduces inflammation and improves healing.
- Pay careful attention to selecting the correct running shoe based upon the foot type (flexible pronator vs. rigid supinator). This is extremely important. In selected cases, shoe inserts (orthotics) may be necessary.
- Anti-inflammatory medications, such as ibuprofen (Advil/Motrin) Tylenol; naproxen (Aleve/Naprosyn), are also a central part of rehabilitation.
- A 4-inch wide Ace bandage wrapped around the region, pressure by taping, or a compression sock or neopryene sleave (More pressure) also helps reduce discomfort. Try more or less pressure to find out what feels best.
- Calf and anterior (front of) leg stretching and strengthening address the biomechanical problems discussed above and reduce pain.
- Stretching and strengthening exercises are done twice a day. Improving hamstring and quad flexability can also reduce shin splints.
- Workouts such as stationary bicycling or pool running: These will allow maintenance of cardiovascular fitness.
- If you are in good shape but still get shin splints during the season it can be due to a lack of arch support on your foot if you have flat feet. Flat feet are a common cause of shin splints. Wrapping around the middle of the foot with pre-wrap and/or then using athletic tape over top can help to give extra support to the arch of the foot. They also sell athletic shoe arch support inserts at several athletic stores. This may also help to reduce shin splints if flat feet/unsupported arches are the problem.
If shin splints are very bad, a decrease in hard running until symptoms have generally resolved (often about two weeks) is needed. Athletes will then run mainly on a level and soft terrain, Distance and Intensity (pace) decreased and a gradual increase in pace be administered over time.
Patellar Tendon Problems
What causes patellar tendonitis?
Patellar tendonitis is the condition that arises when the tendon and the tissues that surround it, become inflamed and irritated. This is usually due to overuse, especially from jumping activities. This is the reason patellar tendonitis is often called "jumper's knee." What is the treatment for patellar tendonitis?
- Anti-Inflammatory Medications Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications which include a long list of possibilities such as Ibuprofen, Motrin, or Naprosyn. Patellar tendonitis treatment can be improved by these medications that will decrease pain and swelling. Be sure to talk to your doctor before starting these medications.
- Stretching Stretching the quadriceps, hamstring, and calf muscles prior to activity and after activity is very important. Getting into a good stretching habit, even once the symptoms resolve, will help prevent a recurrence of the problem. Osgood-schlatters can be a problem for younger runners/jumpers and stretching can be an importaint factor in reducing the condition as fast as possible
- Ice Treatments Icing the area of inflammation is an important aspect of tendonitis treatment. The ice will help to control the inflammation and decrease swelling. By minimizing inflammation and swelling, the tendon can return to its usual state and perform its usual function.
- Chopat Straps/Braces/or Prewrap Occasionally, the trainer may recomend a support strap (called an infrapatellar strap or a Chopat strap) or a knee brace. The benefit of these measures in the treatment of patellar tendonitis is not well known, but some patients find complete relief from using these products. Pre wrap is avalible at every practice and wrapping knee around the tendon 7 times provides the same utility.
- Rest The most important first step in treatment is to avoid activities that aggravate the problem. Your body is the best guide to know how much to rest the injured knee--if an activity hurts in the area of the injured patellar tendon, then you should rest from that activity.