Athletic and Other Injuries What Are Athletic Injuries

Athletic injuries can damage tissues so severely that they ultimately lead to chronic inflammation and pain and a complete breakdown of those tissues. The same can happen for any type of nonathletic physical injury as well, such as a broken bone from a fall or a muscle strain from lifting too heavy an object. Pain and discomfort long after an injury are signs of its incomplete healing.

Most athletic injuries and other types of physical injuries affect the skin, cartilage, muscles, and bones. Muscles strains and sprains, tendinitis, and bone fractures are the most common injuries. Repeated stress to the cartilage pads in joints, particularly in the knees, can weaken these cushions and set the stage for osteoarthritis. Physical stresses also may bruise internal organs such as the kidneys or the brain. For example, many boxers develop neurological damage years after they were fighting in the ring and absorbing punches. Even marathon runners exhibit elevated levels of inflammation-causing substances after a long-distance run.

Causes

Serious single injuries, repeated bruising, and overuse injuries are physical stresses to the body. They crush, tear, or break tissues, and healed tissue may not be quite as sturdy or resilient as tissue that has never been injured. Granted, accidental injuries are sometimes unavoidable, regardless of whether a person is a well-conditioned athlete or an average person who happens to trip over a crack in the sidewalk.

Injuries generate large numbers of free radicals released by activated white blood cells. Studies have found that broken bones and damaged cartilage increase free-radical levels, even without the presence of white blood cells. In addition, ischemic-reperfusion injuries also boost free-radical levels and tissue damage. Ischemia refers to a reduction of blood flow, often the first phase of an injury, which is followed by an influx of red blood cells; both phases generate large quantities of free radicals.

In general, the risk of injuries and painfully slow healing increases with age. Everyone knows that children tend to bounce back from injuries, but adults heal much more slowly. As was discussed earlier, our bodies experience an age-related deterioration. Bones, skin, and other tissues become thinner, and muscle mass declines—these are, after all, some of the signs of aging. It is important to keep in mind that fifty-year-olds don't have the physical attributes of twenty-five-year-olds. The chances of being injured can increase when a person denies the reality of aging and its concomitant decreases in strength, flexibility, reflexes, and coordination. When injuries occur, it is imperative that chronic inflammation be prevented and healing be supported nutritionally.

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