The Fitness Zone
Injuries are very common in the fitness industry and it's important that as fitness professionals we have an understanding of the reason in which the injury occurred, as well as rehabilitation and preventative strategies, says Alarna Haintz, Australian Institute of Fitness VIC/TAS Coach.
Injury incidents are not random, uncontrolled acts of fate; instead they are considered understandable, predictable and preventable. The saying, No Pain, No Gain doesn't always apply.
There are three E's to prevent the risk of an injury occurring; environment, enforcement and education.
- Environment refers to the area which exercise is taking place. You must consider if the area is safe and if the equipment is clean.
- Enforcement requires intervention to keep instructors and clients accountable for exercising in a safe environment and ensuring correct technique is performed.
- And lastly, education refers to passing on knowledge to clients of the importance of preventing an injury occurring.
Types of Injuries
There are three types of injuries: overuse, acute or chronic injuries.
An overuse injury occurs when a micro-traumatic stress is placed on a particular region over a long period of time. Factors contributing to overuse injuries include, inadequate recovery, poor technique, poor exercise selection and a lack of variety in a program. An overuse injury most commonly occurs when movement or a powerful exercise is repetitively performed or there is an inadequate recovery period. If an overuse injury does occur, encourage your client to rest, decrease the stressful activity, ice prior to and after exercise, and ensure the program includes isometric strengthening exercises.
Acute injuries occur within the last 12 weeks and common signs include instant pain and/or disability. Acute injuries are better known as tears, strains, sprains or fractures. If an acute injury does occur, complete the RICER protocol (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation and Referral), use slings or immobilisation materials, and encourage definitive care (X-rays).
Chronic injuries are ongoing injuries. They have a gradual onset, which means your client often has poor recall of when the injury occurred or how it happened. If a chronic injury is noticeable, use ice, gently stretch, encourage rest, and also seek professional advice.
Most Common Workout Injuries
If an injury does occur, encourage your client to seek medical advice and other professional options such as by seeing a Physiotherapist, Podiatrist, or Osteopath.
Foot and ankle injuries are very common in a gym setting due to the fact that the general population are predominantly sedentary, which causes them to have round shoulders and distribute most of their weight to the front of the foot when standing. Most running shoes have an elevated heel also encouraging weight to the front of the foot, which leads to a very unbalanced centre of gravity. The best advice I can give you is to encourage appropriate footwear for your individual clients.
Knee injuries are again due to having a sedentary lifestyles throughout the day and then performing explosive movements in the gym, placing the knee under great stress. If a knee injury occurs, avoid any high impact exercises and ensure the prescribed program targets all stabilisation muscles around the knee.
Lower back injuries are very common; and are due to poor technique, lifting weights that are too heavy or overuse. To prevent a lower back injury from occurring, correct technique is essential as well as having exercises aimed to strengthen the erector spinae and also stretches that ensure the muscles are long and strong.
Lastly, shoulder and neck injuries are another common workout injury, again predominantly due to sedentary office jobs. Hunching over a desk all day creates tightness in the chest and weak lengthened muscles in the upper back and neck. To improve this issue, include exercises such as the Lat Pull Down, Seated Row or External rotations using a resistance band, which are aimed at increasing the strength of the muscles used to retract and depress the scapula's enhancing posture.
Signs to Look For
Any injury should be treated sooner rather than later. As fitness professionals it is our job to avoid an injury, by encouraging and enhancing posture, strengthening the musculoskeletal system, increasing flexibility and stabilisation of joints.
If your client is showing signs of weakness, tightness, has an abnormality or deviation from normal movement, as fitness professionals we must be able to distinguish if an injury has occurred.
To prevent an acute injury from occurring, a fitness professional must ensure an adequate warm-up involving proprioceptive exercises, closed chain to open chain exercises, rhythmic full range of motion dynamic movements and specific movement to replicate exercises during the actual workout.
To prevent an overuse or chronic injury, ensure your clients progressively overload their training volume and intensity, individualise their program allowing sufficient recovery and ensure an adequate warm-up and cool down.
Other preventative strategies for fitness professionals include:
- Well-planned training sessions
- Regular comprehensive posture analysis
- Pre-screening questionnaires
- Effective teaching of correct technique
- 100% focus and monitoring during training sessions
- Appropriate exercise selection
- Realistic intensity and volume prescribed
It is our responsibility to stay up-to-date with the latest research on injury prevention and pass on this in knowledge to our clients to remain injury free whilst being active.