Admit it, there have been times when you have pushed yourself a little bit too hard. Wanting to transcend ourselves and push our limits is in our nature as athletes, however, what you might not know is that even common injuries can have a long-term effect on your life. Here we are discussing five of them that are usually faced by runners.

1. Stress fractures

Stress fractures might refer to anything from a tiny crack in the bone to severe bruising within the bone. They occur in weight-bearing areas, like the heels of our feet, where we constantly put pressure on to support our movements. Re-injury is unfortunately very common, and studies have shown that approximately 60% of all athletes who have sustained a single stress fracture will later sustain at least another one. Clearly, stress fractures that aren’t properly managed can lead to larger, harder-to heal stress fractures, or even chronic problems where the fracture never heals. That means constant discomfort and limited movement of the area where the stress fracture has occurred.

2. ACL injury

An anterior cruciate ligament injury is the over-stretching or tearing of the Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) in the knee. A tear may be partial or complete. It is most commonly torn in sports that involve sudden stops, jumping or changes in direction, but can also be seem amongst runners.

Depending on the severity of your ACL injury, treatment may include rest and rehabilitation exercises to help you regain strength and stability or surgery to replace the torn ligament followed by rehabilitation. Similarly to stress fractures, athletes who had undergo surgical replacement of the ligament are at high risk of needing to undergo a second surgery later on. What makes things worse is that undergoing repeated surgeries means you may never recover the original strength or condition of the ligament in your knee, making your chance of repeated injuries even higher.­

3. Sprain

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Sprains can occur from the stress to the ligaments or joints – the parts that allow the movement of our bones. It is one of the most common sports-related injuries, especially the ankle sprain. You have probably suffered a sprain injury before, so you would know that the less serious ones naturally ‘heal’ over time with rest, so it is unsurprising that many of us may think lightly of a sprain injury.

However, you’re advised to use a brace for proper healing, and your doctor might prescribe you one. Those who have suffered a severe sprain in the past are susceptible to new sprains in the same spot. Most notably, one of the risk factors of a sprained ankle is having ankle instability. More severe cases require prolonged bracing and a possibility of surgery to repair ligaments.

4. Hamstring strain

The hamstrings are tendons that attach the large muscles at the back of the thigh to the thigh bone. Hamstring strains (or “pulls”) can typically be caused by rapid acceleration activities such as fartlek or interval training. Injuries can range from a minor strain to a major rupture. Continuous hamstring injuries can affect your mobility and your flexibility, so if you have faced such pain before, you need to take action to prevent recurrent injuries.

Continuous hamstring injuries can affect your mobility and your flexibility, so if you have faced such pain before, you need to take action to prevent recurrent injuries. Professional guidance is highly recommended for both an accurate diagnosis and a good chance of avoiding such repeat injuries and lifelong issues.

5. Lower back pain (sciatica)

The term sciatica describes pain, that might include tingling, numbness, or weakness, in the lower back area, traveling through the buttock and down the large sciatic nerve in the back of each leg.

Because sciatica is caused by an underlying medical condition, treatment is focused on addressing the cause of symptoms rather than just the symptoms. Sciatica pain can lead to a narrowing of the spinal canal in the lower back, otherwise known as spinal stenosis. In addition, pain in one’s neck, otherwise known as cervical spinal stenosis, is exceedingly more dangerous as it compresses the spinal cord. Spinal cord stenosis may thus result in severe symptoms, including body weakness and paralysis. As with any kind of pain, you are advised to seek professional help if experiencing lower back pain.

Do’s and don’ts

Remeber that your goal is to be a strong and healthy individual in the long run. So, take plenty of time off to fully focus on recovery so that you can return to the field as good as before. Don’t rush back to training, and stay away from competitive races for a long time.

Even if you are not experiencing any pain, always ensure you set aside days to rest so your muscles can recover. And if you do, consult a specialist who will be able to advise you on treatment or recovery plans to prevent the long-term effects that may happen if the condition is not managed.


Adapted, with permission, from an article by Dr Tan Ken Jin, orthopaedic surgeon at Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital specialising in foot and ankle disorders and sports injuries. This article first appeared on Health Plus.

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