Soft Tissue Injury
A soft tissue injury (STI) occurs when there is damage to the muscles, ligaments or tendons within the body. These injuries generally involve a fracture, sprain, strain, a single blow causing bruising, or from overuse of a particular body part.
There are two types of injury;
1. Acute Injury
An acute injury is damage to the body incurred by accident. They can cause a lot of damage to the bones, muscles, tendons and ligaments and may result in immediate pain, swelling and loss of function. Being hit, falling or colliding are some examples of activity that could lead to an acute injury.
2. Chronic Injury
A chronic injury is damage to the body that is as a result of overuse or aging and are caused by continuous stress on an area. This is also referred to as Overuse Syndrome. Examples of chronic injuries are tennis or golfers elbow, carpal tunnel syndrome, shin splints and achilles tendonitis.
Causes of soft tissue injury
The causation factors of sports injuries are either intrinsic or extrinsic. It is vital to identify the cause of the injury as this will assist in identifying the most appropriate rehabilitation programme, speed recovery and prevent or limit the chance of the injury reoccurring.
Intrinsic or athlete dependent factors
These relate to various aspects of your physical make up including previous injury, flexibility, strength and leg length difference. They are also factors you are able to control in order to prevent injury.
• Previous Injury – the association between previous injury and injury occurrence is significant.
• Flexibility – overly tight muscles reduce the range of motion which can lead to an increased risk of tearing or straining of muscles.
• Strength – through sport specific weight training the risk of injury is greatly reduced. A weight lifter who tries to lift a weight way above their physical capability is likely to suffer some form of injury.
• Leg length difference – this may cause excessive ground reaction forces mainly in the shorter limbs as it has further to go to reach the ground. This can lead to excessive strain on the joints, muscles and ligaments of the body.
Extrinsic or environment dependent factors
These relate to aspects of your training programme, technique, equipment, environment and surfaces.
• Training Programme – when deciding how often, how hard and for how long you train you need to consider the impact on your muscles and joints. It is vital to slowly increase your training programme to give your body time to recover and get used to the level of activity. It is also important to include warm up and warm down periods during the training programme. The warm up prepares the muscles and joints for exercise whilst the warm down lowers the heart rate.
• Equipment – wearing the proper equipment is vital in the prevention of injuries. This includes the use of clothing, footwear and protection such as headgear. If you use footwear that is worn and doesn’t provide the correct level of support this may lead to various injuries.
• Technique – if your technique is wrong you are likely to suffer injury. This includes using the wrong technique for a throwing event, when carrying out a tackle or when lifting a weight. Overuse injuries are often caused by the repetitive use of a poor technique.
• Environment and surface – due to exercising in very hot or cold environments over a long period of time. This could lead to dehydration caused by heat and a lack of water or hypothermia caused by excessive cold. The type of surface can also increase the chance of injury such as a hard surface increasing the impact on the joints or an icy surface causing slippage.
Other causes of soft tissue injury include;
• Tensile Stress -Tensile stress is when the muscle contracts and it pulls on the tendons at both ends, which stretch a little. So the tendons are under tensile stress.
• Torsional Stress – An example of torsional stress is when you twist your body from side to side. Golf is a common cause of spinal torsion due to the action carried out during the golf swing.
• Compression – This is where two opposing forces are acting on a structure of the body which can lead to soft tissue injury. An example would be when a person jumps from a height and lands on the ground. The force of your body is pushing you down whilst the ground is pushing you up.