How to Spot Overuse Injuries

knee overuse injury
By Fara Rosenzweig

Overuse injuries are an important topic of conversation for all athletes—nearly 30 percent of college athlete injuries are a result of overuse, according to a study published in the Journal of Athletic Training. This type of injury also accounts for nearly half of all sports-related injuries to middle and high school students.

Unfortunately, overuse injuries are hard to spot and often go undiagnosed. Knowing the difference between this and acute injuries, however, makes it easier to determine what you’re suffering from, allowing you to find a treatment option and keep training.

Keep the following information in mind if you feel you’re suffering from an injury.

Acute vs. Overuse

The difference between these two types of injuries is in the subtleties. An acute injury is the result of a single, traumatic event. This causes a micro-tear, which is when you feel the pain, according to The most common acute injuries include ankle sprains, shoulder dislocations or muscle strains.

Overuse injuries, on the other hand, occur over time, which is why they’re hard to diagnose. In most cases, they result from consistent micro-trauma to one particular area. Common cases of this type if injury includes, tennis elbow, runner’s knee and shin splints.

In the case of an overuse injury, your muscle tissue experiences breakdown without rebuilding, which is a critical component of the “remodeling process,” where muscles build back up to be stronger than before.

Spotting the Overuse Injury

If you’re feeling consistent pain in the same area of your body, see your doctor. If there has been no recent injury or trauma, your doctor may be able to recognize and diagnose the injury as overuse. Once discovered, you’ll need to do one or more of the following:

  • Decrease the frequency or intensity of your workouts.
  • Adopt a new workout regimen that works to gently strengthen the injured area and surrounding muscles.
  • Avoid stressing that muscle or region completely until it begins to heal.
  • Use a brace for the injury as you slowly rebuild muscles and begin to try participating in your sport.

Luckily, overuse injuries can be prevented if you rest, progress your workouts using the 10 percent rule (increasing just 10 percent week over week), and take care of your body by stretching, foam rolling and using self-myofascial release. If you feel pain consistently in one area, see a doctor to begin healing.