SUBSEQUENT INJURY – MORE THAN JUST RECURRENCE!

Are you injured or have you recently been injured? Do you have a significant past history of injury?

If you answered yes to any of these questions (or maybe yes to all three!), then the findings of my first PhD paper, recently been published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, may be of interest to you.

We have all seen athletes suffer, or may have even personally experienced, injuries that reoccur after recovery. A good example is Tiger Woods’ back pain that came and went a few times. We know that previous injury is a risk factor for a future injury of the same type, however this new research also shows that injuries, regardless of where the first injury occurs on the body, can increase the risk for a new injury at a different part of the body. For example, athletes who have a previous history of an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury were found to be at more than two times the risk of sustaining a subsequent hamstring injury compared to athletes who didn’t have a past history of an ACL injury.

Following an injury it is common for the injured region to become weaker and for the athlete to move with less control. It is also common after some injuries for an athlete’s coordination and reaction time to become reduced. If these factors remain altered after returning from an initial injury, other regions of the body may start to work slightly differently or work harder to help compensate for the changes caused by the original injury. This could potentially increase the risk of injury at these other sites, as are they now exposed to new levels of work that they have not previously had to cope with.

After an injury an athlete will often miss components of their normal training sessions. We know that it is very important to maintain a level of training fitness which allows an athlete to safely cope with the demands of their normal training and competition. If an athlete misses a period of training due to injury, their level of fitness is temporarily reduced. During rehabilitation it is common for the injured body site to be strengthened and conditioned, but often other body sites are not trained as much as they were before the injury. So when an athlete is ready to return to full training and competition, the other areas of their body may not be as conditioned as they need to be to withstand the demands of the sport – where they may then go on to sustain an injury at a different site.

This is important to know. When we are injured we generally only focus on the body part that is being rehabilitated, yet it is just as important to keep the non-injured parts of your body healthy and injury free. For an athlete, multiple injuries can affect their ability to perform.  The take home message for athletes (or the weekend warrior!) from our study is: following an injury they may be at an increased risk of suffering a future lower limb injury of a different type. The findings suggests that an injured athlete should complete a thorough rehabilitation program that includes whole body fitness and conditioning work while they are recovering from an injury.

A physiotherapist, can assist in this process by providing an individualised program to help prevent other types of subsequent injuries when you are either recovering from an initial injury or trying to prevent future sports injuries.

If you want to know more about this study you can follow the link below:

http://bjsm.bmj.com/content/early/2017/08/07/bjsports-2017-097500