The summer is finally with us, and with it comes all the sports that many of us love to both watch and play, whatever our level of ability. Wimbledon, Test Cricket, the US and British Golf Opens… the evenings are light, the weather is warm, and full of enthusiasm we head out to the nearest court, course or pitch.
But even people who exercise and train regularly can be prone to injuries, and the likelihood is greatly increased if you suddenly throw yourself into a sport without having got your body used to the idea. Golfers and tennis players can fall victim to elbow problems. While in cricket bowlers will be more likely to experience lower back, shoulder or knee pain, and batsmen or women can get hamstring injuries, caused by the sudden need to sprint from a standing start.
This article is a quick guide to identifying the symptoms, and how to treat them before they get worse.
Tennis elbow, or pain in the outside elbow area
Clinically known as lateral epicondylitis, tennis elbow often occurs after overuse of the muscles and tendons of the forearm, near the elbow joint.
You may notice pain:
- on the outside of your upper forearm, just below the bend of your elbow
- when lifting objects such as a kettle
- when bending or fully extending your arm
- when gripping small objects, such as a pen
- when twisting your forearm, such as turning a door handle or opening a jar
Physio can provide fast relief, especially when followed by simple extension exercises which you can practice anytime, anywhere, to strengthen the muscles and stretch out scar tissue. Bags of frozen peas will relieve pain and swelling in the meantime, and of course it’s important to stop the activity which has caused the strain so the tendon can heal.
Golfer’s elbow – pain in the inner elbow
Golfer’s elbow is the opposite – pain along the inside elbow area, but it is the same kind of injury, involving an inflamed tendon. It is most commonly caused by overuse of muscles in the forearm that flex (curl inwards) the wrist and fingers. Sports such as golf or other activities which involve repeated gripping or flexion of the wrist and fingers and overuse of the tendons can cause degeneration in the form of microscopic tears. This then causes the symptoms of golfer’s elbow, for which, similarly, physio, simple exercises and bags of frozen peas provide fast relief, while the exercises will strengthen the muscles around the tendon, so they take more of the strain, and help stretch out the tendon to alleviate the impact of swelling and scar tissue.
Cricket, that seemingly most gentle of sports, involving long periods of standing around with a tea break in the middle, actually puts a surprising amount of strain on the body. Bowlers often fall prey to muscle sprains through one side of their body from their shoulders down to their knees, due to the one-sided action required of them, while batsmen are most likely to strain their hamstrings from the impact of a sudden sprint.
Warming up properly is especially important for cricketers, and as with golf and tennis elbows, ice packs will reduce swelling while physio and deep tissue massage will start to repair damaged muscles.
Tips for avoiding sports injuries
However, we would all rather stay healthy and avoid injuries all together. Here are my top six tips for a happy summer of sport:
- Over-use injuries are preventable. If you haven’t played all winter, do some ‘pre-training’, working the relevant muscle groups in the weeks before the season starts.
- Warm up properly, focussing on the actions and parts of the body which may be most affected.
- Wear protective clothing as needed – whether it’s a cricket helmet or a support band.
- Quit while you’re ahead – muscle fatigue takes away your protective mechanisms and increases your risk of injuries. After all, you can always come out to play again next weekend, if you don’t get injured today.
- Drink plenty of water.
- Stretch and cool down afterwards – it will protect the muscles for next time.
And finally, if you do find yourself with an injury for which ice packs and painkillers don’t do the job or it’s not getting better – please do call. Physio is very effective for all these sports injuries, and you can speed up recovery and get back out there far quicker if you treat your injury properly!