Most Common Health Issues in Athletes

Although amateur and professional athletes are among some of the healthiest people in any country, they tend to be susceptible to certain common injuries and illnesses. Top athletes tend to push themselves very hard to excel in their sports and often ignore the aches and pains that indicate they are at risk of developing an injury or serious health condition. Athletes of all ages who participate in sports are vulnerable to developing muscle overuse injuries and specific types of health conditions. Doctors, trainers and physical therapists who work with athletes have identified several common illnesses and injuries to which they are susceptible. 

Athletes Most Common Illnesses And Injuries 

1. Upper Respiratory Issues 

As many as 50% of elite athletes suffer with asthma and hay fever. Research has shown that swimmers are particularly susceptible to this condition. Athletes are often required to train and compete when the weather is very hot, very cold, windy or rainy. This increases their chances of developing upper respiratory illnesses. Coaches and trainers should take note of athletes with itchy and watery eyes, coughs, wheezing and nasal congestion. These could be signs of hay fever and upper respiratory issues. 

Treatment And Management Tip

Treating athletes with apparent upper respiratory issues with a combination of Otrivine as well as a corticosteroid nasal spray has proven to be an excellent method for quickly getting breathing issues and nasal congestion under control. Many athletes report the combination also improves the quality of their sleep.

2. Viral Illness

Athletes who regularly travel across several time zones or participate in athletic competitions in foreign environments are more likely to contract both respiratory and gastrointestinal viral illnesses. These viral illnesses can easily pass from one athlete to another in crowded locker rooms and dining halls. Plus, athletes regularly shake hands with and hug their teammates, opponents and spectators. This, along with traveling with teammates in crowded buses can also be a culprit in spreading viral illnesses.

Prevention, Treatment, And Management Tip

Encouraging athletes to wash their hands regularly and distributing personal travel-sized containers of hand sanitizers to be used in the dining hall can help. Athletes can also be treated with decongestant nasal sprays and Paracetamol at the first sign of a viral illness. Providing athletes with probiotic capsules can also help to boost their immune system. 

3. Leaky Gut

Athletes constantly complaining of a leaky gut is another common problem. If your sport calls for lots of travel having a leaky gut is not unusual. If you are suffering from a leaky gut it may be caused by a gastrointestinal illness. Leaky gut is fairly common in athletes in many sports who travel around the country and the world to compete. This forces them to eat foods with which their bodies are not familiar, prepared in kitchens that are not always safe and sanitary. This may also be caused by chronic stress that are common among endurance athletes.

Treatment And Maintenance Tip

To prevent leaky gut from becoming a recurring problem, athletes must be sure to wash their hands thoroughly before eating and pay close attention to the cleanliness in the kitchens and other facilities in which they take their meal. They may also need to pay attention to their dietary choices.

3. Chronic Overuse Injuries

Chronic overuse injuries, especially of the lower limbs, are very common in athletes. Regardless of the sport, it’s not unusual to see athletes of all ages hobbled by stress injuries of the tibia, ankle and foot, plantar fasciosis and Achilles and patella tendinopathies. This is often caused by the number of hours athletes put stress on their feet, ankle and other parts of their lower legs during training, practice sessions and games. 

Management Tip

Athletes should be encouraged to use proper footwear, not overdo their practice sessions, elevate their feet after intense training and get adequate rest. 

4. Acute Muscle Injuries

Athletes participating in track and field events, football, basketball, baseball, hockey and rugby regularly suffer acute injuries to the hamstring and calf muscles. Acute injuries to the quadriceps, groin and rotator cuff and ruptures of the Achilles and long head biceps tendons are also common in athletes is sports. This type of injury often occurs in contact sports because of their high collision and dynamic nature. However, they can happen during any single traumatic event when the muscles are suddenly stretched beyond the level of their elasticity during non-contact sports like sprinting, long jump or high jump, tennis and golf. 

Prevention And Management Tip

Making sure athletes warm-up properly and addressing muscle imbalance, excessive muscle tightness and range of motion issues can help prevent acute muscle injuries. Team clinicians should also help ensure muscle fatigue and overuse, inadequate recovery and faulty biomechanics and technique don’t predispose the athletes in their charge to strains, tears and other acute muscle injuries. 

5. Acute Ankle Ligament Injuries

Acute ankle ligament injuries like sprains are among the most common injuries athletes in contact and non-contact sports suffer. Lateral ankle joint, ligament complex injuries with a vast spectrum of severity are most commonly involved when athletes suffer acute ankle ligament problems. However, medical professionals must ensure the deltoid and syndesmotic ligaments haven’t been injured as well. Misdiagnosed or mismanaged acute ankle ligament injuries occur in over 40% of athletes whose ankle injuries were poorly managed and could potentially have very serious consequences. It often results in the ankle joint dorsiflexion, losing range of motion, impaired proprioception and weakened peroneal muscles.

Management Tip

Carefully and accurately determine the exact nature and severity of each injury. Treat it aggressively using immobilization, rest, elevation and cold compression. The medical staff should work closely with the coach and the athlete to ensure the injury is properly rehabilitated and taped before the is allowed to athlete participate in the competition once again. This can reduce the risk of serious permanent injury. 

6. Acute, Chronic Hand Injuries

Athletes involved in weightlifting, judo, boxing, MMA, baseball, hockey, gymnastics, golf, skiing, lacrosse, tennis and other racket sports are susceptible to acute, chronic, hand injuries. They include everything from simple jammed fingers to dislocations, breaks, tendonitis, Skier’s thumb, Tenosynovitis, ruptures and subluxations. These involve damage to bones, joints, ligaments and tendons and are marked by severe pain, swelling, numbness, persistent bleeding and coldness or grayness of the injured wrist, hand or finger. 

Treatment And Management Tip

Many doctors and physical therapists have had great success treating acute hand injuries with ice-compression, injections, anti-inflammatory medication, strapping and physical therapy. The key is to begin treatment as soon after the hand injury occurs as possible. Timely and proper injury management can speed the healing process and get the athlete back to playing their sport without any negative long-term impact. 

Avoiding, Managing And Treating Athletic Injuries

For athletes, injuries are a common occurrence. However, with proper preparation, an accurate diagnosis and timely treatment, athletes can prevent or quickly recover from injury.

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