Weekend warrior syndrome is a well known phenomenon among “MAMILS” – middle-aged men (and women) in lycra. Sedentary during the working week, they engage in ‘energetic’ sports on the weekend, and bam – injured! As an avid marathon runner himself, DR LIAN ARN LIM has personal experience with this issue. And, as a consultant orthopaedic surgeon, he treats many sports injuries for fellow weekend warriors.
How do weekend warrior injuries usually come about?
Sports injuries tend to occur in three scenarios: accidents, overuse or poor preparation. Accidents such as collisions and falls push bones and joints beyond their tolerance. These are the least preventable injuries as the athlete doesn’t have complete control. Overuse activities occur when a high activity level is arrived at too early or sustained for too long.
Poor preparation is the cause of weekend warrior injuries. They feel like a teenager, when in fact they’re older and returning to an activity they haven’t done for a long time. There have even been a few studies done on this! But the anecdotal experience of most orthopaedic doctors in Singapore is that many athletes fitting this profile come through our doors.
How long should people wait after sports injuries before picking up again?
Generally, two weeks for minor bruises or sprains, and six weeks for more serious sports injuries. The other important factor in returning to sports after injury is a gradual return rather than returning immediately at the pre-injury level.
What are the common weekend warrior injuries and usual treatments?
#1 Knee injuries
Overuse injuries include the “runners’ knee” and iliotibial band syndrome; these cause progressive pain with impact activities at the front and outer side of the knee. Rest, anti-inflammatory medication and physiotherapy involving stretching and strengthening of appropriate soft tissues are recommended. Tear injuries on the other hand affect ligaments or the meniscus (cartilage inside the knee). They’re often more dramatic and cause acute pain with inability to continue the sport or even walk normally. Surgical repair or reconstruction is regularly required.
#2 Ankle injuries
Ankle sprains are seen in people who play racquet or contact sports. They’re really ankle ligament tears, and the most common cause of recurrent sprains is inadequate rehabilitation or rest before getting back out there. Sometimes it’s best to immobilise the ankle in braces and use crutches for a period.
#3 Shoulder injuries
Shoulder tendon injuries are common in sports with overhead arm actions. These injuries may range from inflammation causing discomfort, to significant tears causing pain and dysfunction. Shoulder ligament tears tend to happen in contact sports and can lead to dislocations or sensations of instability and pain. Pain from inflammation is usually managed with rest and medication, whereas tear injuries may end up with surgical repairs. Sounds painful!
Is there any way to prevent these sports injuries?
Adequate preparation, moderated engagement and knowing when to see a doctor. Be prepared by making sure you have a minimal level of general fitness and sport-specific fitness before fully engaging in a sport. Have a measured and progressive increase in sport intensity and volume starting from a cautious level. Don’t overdo it to the point of getting overuse injuries. And don’t engage so infrequently that you’re almost starting anew every time.
Any other tips?
Know when to see a doctor! Go immediately when the following are present: visible deformity, inability to fully move a joint after resting, inability to put weight on a lower limb, extreme pain. If the symptom isn’t as dramatic but pain or dysfunction persists despite resting a few days or a week, see a doctor.
This article on weekend warrior injuries first appeared in the January 2024 edition of Expat Living. You can purchase the latest issue or subscribe so you never miss a copy!
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