Risk of injury is something that gym instructors and personal trainers work hard to minimise when training clients. This blog investigates five of the most common injuries that can occur during gym workouts, sports training and activities, and gym classes, or that clients may be suffering from – and how to prevent them.
1. KNEE INJURIES
These count for more than half of sports injuries and include worn out or torn cartilage or tendons and areas affected by arthritis. So-called “runner’s knee” – or anterior knee pain syndrome – tends to cover a range of injuries to the knee area and is not restricted to runners. Knee injuries can arise from playing sport, such as football and basketball, and from carrying out training exercises such as squats and lunges without following the correct techniques.
A personal trainer should be able to advise clients on posture and technique to prevent or minimise knee injuries and to set routines that will avoid over-training (see our blog on Resistance exercise: How to avoid overtraining).
Top tips: Weight training to strengthen quadriceps can help support the knee. Women should work on strengthening their hamstrings as they are more likely than men to tear the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in the knee. Runners should invest in a good pair of shoes and replace them regularly. An injured knee should be rested and treated with anti-inflammatories and ice.
2. LOWER BACK PAIN
Many personal trainers will encounter clients suffering from lower back pain because they lead a sedentary lifestyle, are obese or have poor posture (see our blog on Lower Back Pain). However, back pain can also be caused by overtraining the abs without training the back, or by poor stretching technique after workouts, sports training or competition. Lower back pain can stem from trapped nerves but is usually down to musculature issues such as tight or weak muscles.
Top tips: Fitness instructors can help clients reduce the risk of injury by ensuring they warm up thoroughly before any kind of exercise or sporting activity. Personal trainers can also set back-strengthening exercises, which can both prevent injury and help rehabilitation. Trapped nerves, sciatica and bulging disks may require medical treatment.
3. SHOULDER INJURIES
The shoulder is another common area for injuries. Shoulder injuries are prevalent among those who try to lift too heavy weights when carrying out resistance training such as overhead shoulder presses, especially those inexperienced at following the correct techniques. Tennis players, swimmers and volleyball players are also at higher risk of pain and stiffness in the shoulder.
Top Tips: Strengthening the rotator cuffs will help to stabilise the shoulders during weight training and sporting activities. (see our blog on Exercises for Rotator Cuffs).
4. TENNIS ELBOW
Also common in bodybuilders, this is when the tendon on the outside of the elbow becomes inflamed and is normally caused by overuse. In golfers, a similar injury can occur but usually on the inside of the elbow.
Top tips: For prevention, strengthen the forearm with wrist curls and wear an elbow brace when needed. At the first sign of pain or discomfort, rest the elbow, seek physiotherapy if needed and return to the sport or gym activity gently rather than diving straight back into competition level activities.
5. ANKLE SPRAIN
Any sport that requires participants to run, jump and twist at speed can lead to injury to the ankle. This can range from a simple twist, leading to a swollen or stiff ankle, to a more serious tendon or ligament tear that prevents you from walking.
Top tips: Although rest is beneficial, it’s important to get the ankle moving again to help recovery. A protective brace or other kind of ankle support can help, as well as following the RICE principle.
THE IMPORTANCE OF WARMING UP
Finally, a good personal trainer will always ensure that clients are warmed up before carrying out any form of exercise (see our blog on Flexibility and Warming Up) and that they perform adequate stretching exercises after warming up and at the end of gym or sports activities.
After an injury, many fitness professionals recommend following the RICE principle of:
This can speed up the recovery process and prevent a minor injury becoming a major one. In addition, those interested in being able to treat the above as well as other injuries may want to attain their Level 3 Certificate in Sports Massage (Soft Tissue Therapy).