10 Years On: the Effect of 5 Sports on Your Joints and Muscles | Health Plus

While the occasional sports injury may not seem like a big deal now, they may actually be causing gradual and silent damage to your body. Brushing them aside repeatedly could put you at risk of developing more severe conditions in the future.

Here are 5 common sports you may be doing, and the effects that you may suffer 10 years on.

Soccer

Sprained ankles and hamstring injuries are but a rite of passage for all soccer players. But they may not be as harmless as they seem.

Spraining your ankle means that your ligaments are stretched or torn from the sudden and forceful turning of your ankle beyond what is normal. When ligaments are stretched, it may never return to its original shape. This means that your ankle is now less stable, putting you at higher risk of repeated sprains in future.

Also, ankle sprains do not affect just your ankle. They can lead to chronic stiffness, which has a substantial effect on the rest of your body. Your walking becomes compromised, and muscles in the leg and pelvis lose efficiency and strength. This can cause your lower back and hips to start hurting.

As for hamstring injuries? The usual cure for hamstring injuries is time. However, repeated hamstring injuries mean that more scar tissue will form, preventing your muscle from functioning healthily in the long run. For these, there is the option of platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injections to promote the healing of hamstring injuries that do not resolve with rest and gentle stretching.

Dance

The dancers among us know that dance is anything but graceful and poised. Some injuries not uncommon to dancers are spasms and dislocations.

Ballet dancers in particular would be no strangers to bunions, a deformity where the big toe leans towards the second toe. Moving on pointed toes and wearing shoes that squeeze the toes together increase the pressure on the big toe, causing the bunion to enlarge. In more serious cases, this could result in pain, discomfort and difficulty walking in the long term.

Spasms usually indicate that you have overworked your muscles. When they happen, you may find that your motion is limited, and that you experience pain. Spasms can also indicate that your muscle is starting to tear. If you don’t give it time to heal, you could suffer from tendon strains and tears.

Dislocations of the knee caps, elbows, and shoulders are also unsurprising. Unfortunately, the area that we dislocate will become more susceptible to further dislocations in future. Older adults in particular should be more wary, as shoulder dislocations could tear your rotator cuff.

CrossFit

CrossFit is gaining a huge following worldwide and in Singapore. However, the high-intensity workout that targets multiple body parts mean that the risk of getting injured is higher. In particular, some conditions include rotator cuff tendonitis and Achilles tendinopathy.

All the heavy and repetitive lifting exercises can cause injury to the rotator cuff (a group of 4 muscles around the shoulder joint). While it puts your training plan on hold, it is necessary to give it time to heal. Physiotherapy is often required in conjunction with rest. Not giving the injury time to heal could result in dire consequences, such as a lifetime of restricted shoulder motion or tearing of the tendon.

Squats, box jumps and double unders are great workout moves, but the repetitive movements spell bad news for our Achilles tendon. Repeated eccentric stress is placed on it, causing pain, swelling and stiffness. If not managed, your Achilles tendon may even rupture. That is a condition that will put you out of action for a long time, and may even require surgery.

Golf

Think that golf must be a safe sport with low risk of injury? Think again. Golf, with its highly repetitive movements often cause pain to the elbows, neck, wrists, back and even fingers. Back pains are common among us golfers as the swings we do place considerable pressure on our spine and muscles. This is notable with the follow-through phase of the swing where the back can assume a c-shaped position. This can cause minor strains in our backs that can easily end up as severe back injuries.

Our knees can suffer from doing this sport as well. For those of us who suffer from weak knees or arthritis, knee pain can occur from repeated strain. Extreme twisting forces from the swings can even result in us developing torn ligaments or meniscus tears.

Yoga

While yoga is commonly touted to be a sport that brings about healing, the improper or excessive practice of certain yoga poses may actually do more harm than good. For example, the downward dog pose that we so enjoy doing involves us putting pressure on our wrist at a slightly awkward angle. If this pose is practised repeatedly over a long span of time, it would cause repeated stress on our wrists, possibly leading to repetitive strain injury or a ligament tear.

In fact, those among us who have injured our wrists in the past should avoid doing such poses as further aggravation of the injury could result in joint degeneration of the wrist in future.

Doing shoulder stands, the plow pose or headstands also put an immense amount of pressure on our spine, potentially causing injury to our shoulders or neck. If sustained over a long period of time or if the technique is poor, it could cause a serious backbone or spinal disc problem.

Preventing long term risks from sports injuries

Does that mean that we should avoid doing all forms of sports? No. Most of these injuries are sustained as a result of improper technique or overuse. However, as long as we keep exercising, there is bound to be a risk of sustaining injuries at any point of time.

With early treatment and intervention, our doctor will be able to advise us on recovery plans so as to be able to prevent or minimise the long-term effects that may happen if the condition is not managed. Take ownership of your health and partner with your orthopaedic  or sports physician to take the best care of your body, ensuring that the exercise you do benefits, rather than harms your body. 

Article reviewed by Dr Andrew Dutton, orthopaedic surgeon at Mount Elizabeth Hospital.

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