Injuries in young athletes returning to sport after lockdown

Having been in and out of lockdowns for 18 months, little organised sport was able to take place, however, since restrictions were eased over the summer and popular sports such as football and rugby have returned, there has been a significant increase in the number of people being seen in clinic reporting pain and discomfort following a return to their normal sporting activities…particularly among younger athletes.

Unfortunately, due to lockdown, many young athletes have been forced to switch training for video games and TV, therefore spending a significant amount of time in a slumped position. But why is lockdown causing more injuries amongst younger athletes?

When we rest, our muscles and tendons weaken, but tendons take a lot longer to strengthen in preparation for physical activity than muscles do. Research has suggested that tendons may take as long as three months longer to respond to exercise than muscle.

When a young athlete returns to their pre-lockdown level of activity after a prolonged period of rest without gradually building up intensity, there is a chance that their tendons and muscles will be unable to tolerate the sudden increase in demand. After several training sessions in a short period of time, young athletes may begin to complain of aching around their muscles and tendons. In some cases this can prevent them from training.

The good news is there are plenty of precautions which can be taken to significantly reduce the risk of a young athlete suffering with tendon and muscle pain as a result of returning to sport after an enforced period of rest

  • Gradually increase the frequency and intensity of exercise- the first few sessions should feel very easy, but don’t get overconfident! It is important to give your body time to recover and adapt in between sessions, especially when you are building up your fitness again
  • Regardless of your sport, resistance training is vital to help prepare your muscles and tendons for the demand which they are going to be placed under. This doesn’t have to involve going to the gym- body weight exercises and the addition of a resistance band can be done at home
  • Stretching can help to reduce the risk of tendon injures. Tendons are the connective tissue which attach muscle to bone, and therefore a tight muscle creates greater pull on its tendon. By stretching and maintaining full range of motion, less pull is placed through the tendon, and reduces injury risk.

If you suspect you may have an injured tendon, contact us to discuss this further. This blog post is not designed to replace a complete medical assessment. Should you experience any pain or discomfort stop the activity and consult a healthcare professional.

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